(Bronze, 450-350 BC)
by Theodora Goss
In a case in the Museum of Fine Arts
in Budapest, there is a kreagra.
It looks a bit like the end of a garden rake
if its tines resembled the arms of an octopus
on a Greek vessel, radiating over
the terracotta background, or a bronze claw
shaped like a flower, perhaps a chrysanthemum,
the kind with a single layer of petals curling outward
that you find in old Japanese prints.
The sign underneath explains that we do not know
what the kreagra was, or what it was used for.
In both English and Hungarian, it is called a kreagra
(so-called, says the sign, without saying who called it so,
or why), and Wikipedia,
that modern oracle, refers us back to
the object in the case in the Museum of Fine Arts
in Budapest, as though it were the only kreagra
that exists, or has ever existed.
The sign says it could have been used
to hold a votive torch or for roasting sacrificial
meat, but its use is uncertain.
Your guess is a good as the sign’s. What would you use
your kreagra for? Catching an octopus?
Raking a flowerbed filled with chrysanthemums?
I’m sure it would make an excellent toasting fork.
More practically, it has become a symbol
of how limited our knowledge really is,
how much we have lost, how much of human history
is a best guess, because what actually happened
has disappeared into the enveloping darkness
of time, like the (presumed) wooden handle
of the kreagra (so-called), or the (presumed) men and women,
huntsmen, fishermen, priestesses, who knows,
that used it once, and might have been able to tell us
what it is, what it meant,
what any of it meant.
(This is the kreagra from the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts. I have since learned that there are other kreagras — or kreagrae? — in various European museums. I still do not know what it is or does.)