Gold pendant in the form of a goat


British Museum

British Museum

The long curving horns of this animal identify it as a Cretan wild goat (agrimi). This piece of gold jewellery shows a male goat with his legs tucked beneath him. The form of his body and the details of the horns and his shaggy coat have been impressed into a thin sheet of gold. The dangling gold discs and loop at the top suggest that it was part of an earring or necklace.
High status women wearing elaborate jewellery are often shown in the art of Bronze Age Crete and neighbouring islands. They are also sometimes shown feeding wild goats. Such an item of jewellery could suggest an association between the wearer and the remote and rocky parts of Crete where the wild goats were found. Scenes of hunting wild goats from the same period could similarly suggest control over these animals and the places they lived. Domestic goats are almost never shown in the art of Bronze Age Crete indicating that these wild animals and places were particularly important to the people of the time.
The agrimi was almost hunted to extinction in the early twentieth century, though a small protected population still lives in one mountainous area of Crete. Recent genetic studies have shown that these wild goats were actually descended from domesticated animals. Goats were brought to Crete by human settlers some 9000 years ago and some escaped or were let loose. By the time of the Bronze Age their long horns and agility marked them out as different, and an appropriate subject for impressive pieces of jewellery.

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  • Title: Gold pendant in the form of a goat
  • Date Created: -1700/-1550
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 5.00cm; Length: 2.80cm; Weight: 102.50grains
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: mammal
  • Registration number: 1876,0513.1
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Crete
  • Period/culture: Minoan
  • Material: gold
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Petrides, D N