PROJECT: N 2021-1-BE02-KA220-ADU-000035111

4 Elements in Arts

Lesson Plans

Bull-Leaping Fresco

Warming Up

    • What are animal rights? Can you list some?

    • What do you think about animal rights?

    • How important are sports to you?


Cultural Heritage Background

The Bull Leaping Fresco is a unique piece of Minoan art. It stands out because of its bright colours and curved shapes, which give the scenes life and energy. Artists from this time could paint nature in a bright, impressionistic way. They could put the painting in a frame made of geometric shapes. This painting shows three people. Two of them have lighter skin and stand outside the picture frame. Someone with dark skin is jumping over the arched back of the bull. The border of the fresco looks like the wheels of a chariot, which shows that it was made in the later years of Minoan culture, after the Mycenaeans had taken over Knossos and destroyed other Minoan centres.

Minoan culture valued bull-leaping. It demonstrated how man’s weak control over nature creates tension. It might have been part of a ritual, or a sport, or both. Many works of art have been made to show how people used to tame wild animals. In Minoan art, the bull was a very popular subject. So, the Bull-Leaping Fresco in the Palace of Knossos is a great example of this aspect of Minoan culture.

People have disagreed a lot about who the three people in this painting are and what gender they are. The debate is based on the colour of their skin. When Sir Arthur Evans first saw the figures, he thought the lighter skin on two of them meant they were women. The figure with darker skin was a man. Archaeologists still think that skin colour can show a person’s gender.

But what if we need to take a second look at this? Another possibility is that the colours of the bull-leapers were used to show the jumper’s movements in order of time. So, the lighter figure on the left, who is holding the bull’s horns, is about to somersault the running bull. The darker figure shows the somersault in progress, and the figure on the right with lighter skin shows that the jump is over and the pose is still. If we understand the fresco like this, then only one figure is bull-leaping. This figure is very athletic, as shown by his realistic muscles, and perhaps high class. There are many ways to explain who the figure might be, but they all show that bull leaping was an important part of Minoan culture.

Source: Furman University


Listen to the audio fragment and answer the following questions

Guidelines: You can adapt this exercise based on your audience’s needs. For example:

If you teach deaf learners, you can show the video with subtitles.

If you are teaching learners with visual impairments, they can listen to the video’s audio. 

Adjust the use of audiovisual content based on what you want to achieve with your relevant audience.

Listening Comprehension

Read the story

The Minoans, who lived on the island of Crete for almost 4,000 years, have their fair share of mysteries. They used Linear A, which looks like a mix of the Greek alphabet and Chinese characters. No one has been able to figure out what it says. They believed in an unknown goddess who was often linked to snakes. Some people think they were the first to live in the area known as Atlantis.

One of the most interesting mysteries about the Minoans is their favourite sport. Bull-leaping was like acrobatic bullfighting.


The Minoans were true fans of bulls. In the ruins of Crete’s many palaces, bull sculptures, jewellery, and frescoes have been found. They made drinking horns called “rhyta” that ended in the heads of bulls. People also think King Minos’s labyrinth, which held the half-man, half-bull minotaur, was in the large palace at Knossos.

One of the most common ways Minoan artefacts show bulls is a man somersaulting over charging bulls. Scholars argue about whether the Minoans did bull-leaping, but it can’t be denied that they were interested in it.

Based on Minoan artefacts, scholars think that if the Minoans did this dangerous thing, the basic plan would have had four steps (though depictions differ).

First, the jumper would walk up to the bull; then he would grab its horns. Then, using the bull’s upward, goring motion as momentum, he would flip. Finally, he would land behind the bull. This sport would have been for young men from the upper class of Minoan society. It would have happened in the large courtyards of the Minoan palaces on Crete, like the one in the middle of the 150,000-square-foot Knossos palace.


Some scholars think that bull leaping was a symbol. They believe many bull-leaping scenes on artefacts show a scene from Minoan mythology. But the scene changes each time and over time.

Bull-leaping scenes are about remembering real events, and not that much about telling a story about the universe.

In bullfighting today, jumping over a charging bull seems impossible or too dangerous. Modern matadors have a long line of helpers who beat down the bull with lances before the matador kills it with a sword. Killing a bull might be easier than jumping over it, though.

Yet jumping over bulls is still done today. In the “course landaise”, popular in France, the “sauteur” jumps over a charging cow instead of a bull. “Recortes” (which you can see via the video link in the Extra Resources for Learners section) is a Spanish sport in which people jump over bulls. Unlike bullfighting, it rarely ends in bloodshed (for the bull, at least).


Even though bull-leaping is still done, the Minoan culture that did it is no longer around. We don’t know exactly what happened to the Minoans. If you don’t understand Linear A, you can’t use historical records to discover what could have brought them down. Archaeological evidence shows that a nearby volcano, Mount Thera, erupted. The eruption and tsunami that followed may have destroyed many of the Minoans’ coastal areas. This made it hard for them to grow food.

The Minoans lived through this disaster. It may have made them weak enough for their rivals, the Myceneans, to come and take over the island. Archaeologists have found Mycenaean weapons buried in the ground from this period, and we know that the Mycenaeans moved to Crete. The Minoans are no longer around, but it doesn’t look like their culture died completely: Mycenaean frescoes also show scenes of bull-leaping.


Reading Comprehension


“enough” – Grammar Explanation

“Enough” means “As much as necessary”. It can be used with a verb, a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. A pronoun can also be used with it.

enough comes after adjectives and adverbs -> “I couldn’t type fast enough, so I don’t have all the notes.”
enough comes after verbs -> “I make sure I eat enough breakfast in the morning.”
enough comes before nouns -> “There is not enough water to have a shower.”
enough can also be used without a noun -> “Did we get enough food for all of us?” “Yes, I think we got enough.” (you don’t need to repeat the noun because it is known)
When enough is used with an adjective and a noun, two positions are possible, but the meaning changes ->

“We haven’t got big enough envelopes.” (The envelopes are too small.)

“We haven’t got enough big envelopes.” (We have too few big envelopes.)

When “enough” is after the adjective (big enough envelopes), it describes the adjective – the envelopes are too small. When “enough” is before the adjective (enough big envelopes), it describes the noun phrase – we have some big envelopes but need more.

You can find out more here

Additional activities

  • You can find out more about the Bull-Leaping Fresco here
  • You can explore the Heraklion Museum further here

Extra resources for learners

  • You can discover more legends about wind here
  • You can learn more about Minoan civilization, here
  • You can gain more information about the art of bull-leaping, here


How true are these statements for you?
I think the story is engaging and interesting. *
I have learnt some new vocabulary and structures. *
I have learnt about its background and culture. *
The extra resources and additional activities have made me reflect on the meaning and the implications of the story. *
I have learnt about its cultural background and history. *
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