The Palaikastro Kouros is the earliest known example of a chryselephantine statue, an artistic technique renowned in Archaic and Classical Greece. Dated to the 15th c. BC (Late Minoan IB), it was found as heavily burned fragments during the 1987, 1988 and 1990 excavation campaigns at Palaikastro and, once restored, published in detail in the volume: J.A. MacGillivray, J. Driessen & L.H. Sackett, The Palaikastro Kouros. A Minoan Chryselephantine Statue and its Aegean Bronze Age Context, (British School at Athens Studies, 6), London, 2000 (with contributions by C.V. Crowther, P. Harrison, S.A. Hemingway, R.B. Koehl, M.S. Moak, A. Moraïtou, J. Musgrave, A. Nikakis, S.E. Thorne, J. Weingarten).
At present, the recomposed statue is exhibited in the Sitia museum (SM7678). Made of ivory in combination with steatite, rock crystal and gold, and standing 0.48 m high, it is the largest Minoan statue ever found. Because of its naturalistic anatomic details, it is considered a masterpiece. Made of eight separate pieces of hippopotamus ivory, the statue was fitted together using wooden dowels. The hair was carved from a piece of serpentine and the eyes were inlaid with rock crystal. The statue was partially covered in hammered gold and inserted into a base decorated with gold spots on an Egyptian blue ground.
Since its discovery, there has been plenty of discussion on its taphonomy and the circumstances and reasons for its destruction (see e.g. J. Driessen, The Birth of a God? Cults and Crises on Minoan Crete, in M. Cavalieri, R. Lebrun & N. Meunier (eds), De la Crise naquirent les cultes. Approches croisées de la religion, de la philosophie et des représentations antiques, Wetteren, 2015, 31-44; J.A. MacGillivray, Finding God at Palaikastro, in J. Driessen & C. Knappett, Megistos Kouros. Studies in honour of L.H. Sackett (Aegis 23), Louvain-la-Neuve 2022, 230-245); H. Whittaker, The Palaikastro Kouros and Iconoclasm in the Wider Mediterranean Area, European Review 2022, 1-8. Within the Talos project, we explore whether its destruction can conceivably be explained as an iconoclastic reaction in a time when male divinities were gradually replacing a major female divinity as a possible consequence of the impact of the Santorini eruption. The number of findspots where the statue’s fragments were found, and the nature of their dispersal has never been satisfactorily explained.