Intro Programme Abstracts
Social Aspects of Hell: A cross-cultural approach


Nanno Marinatos (University of Illinois):
Minoan afterlife beliefs: Paradise or hell?

Minoan religion has been described as a picture book without texts. The only source material for Minoan afterlife beliefs is a large corpus of painted clay coffins (larnakes) dating mainly to the 13th century BCE, after the fall of the Minoan palaces.

To interpret the paintings without texts may seem impossible, but an attempt can be made on the basis of a common pool of ideas about afterlife shared by the Ancient Orient, Egypt and later Greece: an East Mediterranean religious koine.

The paintings can be interpreted as landscapes of the beyond. They provide a new home for the soul as well as a rudimentary map of the netherworld. Hell is not and could not be depicted because that would defeat the very purpose of the paintings. Nevertheless, some speculations about hell may be made.

The question of the social identity of the dead who were buried in the larnakes will also be addressed.

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2005: University of Thessaly - Dpt. of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology