Iris Cretica and Perfumes in Minoan times.

Olive oil, herbs and aromatic plants played a major role in the palatial economies of Crete and Mycenaean Greece in the second millennium BC, especially through the production and trade of perfumed oil. While iris was regarded by Classical authors as a popular plant in ancient perfume-making and medicine, reference to it in the Linear B tablets has yet to be confirmed.

Possible identifications are discussed in this article. Moreover thanks to modern residue analysis the existence of oil of iris, along with olive oil, honey and resin, has been attested in the MM IA Bolanis workshop at Chamalevri, 10 km east of Rethymnon. The importance of iris in Minoan Crete is further confirmed by its appearance in Knossian frescoes of the 16th century and frequent depiction on LM III pottery.

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Ioannis Kotzianoglou

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