The hot Cretan sun burnt down on the farmer as he toiled his land - digging, sowing, and harvesting his potato crop ready for market. Life was tough, in summer it almost never rains in Crete, but luckily the Gods had blessed this farmer with good fortune. His land sat on an underground aquifer which he could access simply by digging a hole so that he could always irrigate his precious potato crop whenever it was needed.
By digging water holes for his potatoes he had unwittingly stumbled upon a 4000 year old Minoan Palace in Malia, a place that was completely unknown in terms of Cretan archaeology. The famous archaeological sites in Crete had all previously been discovered by studying the ancient tales and legends handed down over thousands of years from Minoan history. Malia never received a mentioned in any of these legends or tales from antiquity.
The farmer loaded up his cart with his latest crop of potatoes to sell at the market, but on the way he stopped off at the jewellers. He told the jeweller that he wished to sell some of his gold. The jeweller invited him to take a seat whilst he examined it in his office. Little did the farmer know that he was in fact contacting officials from the local authority. When they arrived they questioned him and said "where did you get the gold". He replied "from my gold mine, of course".
Amongst the gold that the farmer found was this exquisite, now famous, pectoral pendant, consisting of two bees depositing a drop of honey in their honeycomb. They are holding the round, granulated honeycomb between their legs and the drop of honey in their mouths. On their heads is a filigree cage containing a gold bead, while small discs hang from their wings and the sting. This is a true masterpiece of the Minoan's skill, combining repoussé, granulated, filigree and incised decoration. This beautiful gold pendant is 4000 years old.
Unlike the UK where treasure trove is rewarded both to the finder and the owner of land, in Crete you only own what is on the land and nothing beneath the land. The farmer was simply given another potato field as compensation and sent off on his way.
The farmer found the gold in the early 1920s.
In the Aegean culture, the bee was believed to be a sacred insect, especially associated with connecting the natural world to the underworld, and this helps to explain why the above pendant was placed in a tomb.
The bee was also the symbol of the Minoan goddess Potnia, meaning "mistress" who was also referred to as "The Pure Mother Bee". Her priestesses were given the name Melissa which also means "bee".