Raffaella Cattaneo


Xeste 3 frescoes depict a spring setting with a flower identified as autumnal and sterile (so cultivated) Crocus sativus. Crocus sativus, however, blossoms in autumn so that its presence in a spring setting is justified with temporal hiatus (from collecting to offering), or hypothesizing a missing scenes (desiccation process).

For the flower identification the author, helped by botany and etymology, compares many species confused with the Crocus sativus during time such as the Carthamus, the Colchicum, the Curcuma and also the Sternbergia, concluding that the represented flower does not coincide with any of them and therefore can refer to a no more existing species. If, on other hand, we have to admit that it is a Crocus, Minoan representations attest its harvest but not its cultivation (so it can not be sativus) while Micenean texts confirm its cultivation, with scarce harvest from many sites.

To support it can’t be sativus, the same frescoes from Xesté 3 are analyzed.

If they describe a life’s celebration in a typical spring context, an autumnal flower is out of place. If they show an initiatory rite or a rite of passage, the offering of a near home cultivated flower is also out of place, because such rites imply fresh offerings, obtained through dolor (the bloody foot) and strain. A different interpretation for the meaning of the flower in the frescoes is therefore proposed, and it is that it symbolizes the Four Elements (water, earth, air and fire). Finally, a possible use of crocus in textile manufacture is proposed, together with a possible use the adyton as a regeneration space.

Parole chiave

Akrotiri; Crocus; Frescoes; Adyton; Xeste 3; Affreschi

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