Pendant from the Aegina treasure

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Mysterious master

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The star of this object is a man, standing in the middle of the pendant and depicted frontally, holding a bird in each hand. But where is he from?

His image is a popular ancient Near Eastern motif known as the ‘Master of Animals’. It consists of a man (or a woman, in which case we speak of a Mistress of Animals), most often standing and grasping an animal in each hand. In this case the animals are probably geese, but in other instances different animals have been depicted, such as bulls, snakes, lions, and even dolphins. Crowley, ‘The Aegean master of animals: the evidence of the seals, signets and sealings’, in The master of animals in old world iconography (Budapest, 2010).

The motif can be seen on objects from all over the ancient Near East, like on the Egyptian Gebel el-Arak knife Louvre , dating back to around 3200 BCE (Fig. 1), and other objects, often cylinder seals, from for example Assyria (Fig. 2), Cyprus (Fig. 3), Persia (Fig. 4), and Greece. A famous example is a Minoan Mistress of Animals, a figurine of a woman holding two snakes (Fig. 5).

By just looking at this motif, the origins of this pendant could lie anywhere around the Mediterranean. Perhaps we can find some more clues in the context of the pendant.