The Neopalatial period of Middle to Late Bronze Age Crete is marked by a dramatic increase in the depiction of non-human animals. In contrast to the domesticates listed in the Linear A documents, the animals which appear on frescoes and seals are largely wild or supernatural, or in non-domestic scenes (particularly bull-leaping). This article seeks to explore the quantitative differences between the types of animals displayed on different media, and ask why non-domestic animals appear in such significant proportions. Arthur Evans and subsequent scholars have explained this phenomenon as an expression of interest in the natural world. Instead of this modernist view, it will be argued here that it is by trying to approach these depictions as expressing specifically Bronze Age human-animal relations that the role of such animals in Cretan society can be understood. From a relational perspective, the animals depicted can be seen as active participants in prestige activities such as hunting or bull-leaping rather than the passive motifs of artistic naturalists. This perspective might also provide a more illuminating answer to the question: why depict animals?
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