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The Minoan and Mycenaean worlds of Greece had a most distinguished record in gem engraving, not at all dependent on either Egypt or the Near East, but with their own range of shapes and subjects, and of a quality matching the best of antiquity anywhere. The subjects are abstract or animal, rather than human or divine. The subject matter of seals in the ancient near east, Mesopotamia, Syria and Asia Minor, was generally religious or regal. On Greek Bronze Age seals, the Minoan and then the Mycenaean, this was true mainly for the subjects on the finer rings. Other gems display a remarkable range of animal studies and sometimes pure pattern, and one senses that the choice of the artist is more dominant than any need to express personality, divinity or sheer power. But the stones clearly could have amuletic as well as decorative or identifying functions. The end of the Greek Bronze Age was followed by the so-called 'Dark Ages'.

Abbreviations in this section:

Krzyszkowska - O. Krzyszkowska, Aegean Seals. An Introduction (London, 2005)

GGFR - J. Boardman, Greek Gems and Finger Rings: Early Bronze Age to Late Classical (London, 1970)

Zwierlein-Diehl - E. Zwierlein-Diehl, Antike Gemmen und ihr Nachleben (Berlin/New York, 2007)

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