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You are in:  Top  →  Europe  →  GREECE  →  Crete  →  HERAKLION  →  Knossos  →  Sir Arthur Evans

Sir Arthur Evans

It had long been known that there had once existed a city called Knossos in the region South of Heraklion, Crete and indeed, the inhabitants often found ancient objects as they cultivated their fields.

The first man to excavate in the area was Minos Kalokairinos, a merchant of Iraklion and a lover of antiquity. In 1878 he uncovered two of the palace storerooms. The Turkish owners of the land compelled him to stop his investigations, and the attempts of Schliemann to purchase the "Kefala" hill came to nought because of the excessive sums they demanded. Fortune thus played a part in assisting Arthur Evans to begin systematic excavation in 1900, when the island had now been declared an independent State. He visited Crete for the first time in 1894 in order to study and decipher the unknown script that could be made out on seal stones. A year later he published the results in Cretan Pictographs and Prae-Phoenician Script.

Evans was a British archaeologist, born in Nash Mills, England, and educated at Harrow School, Brasenose College, the University of Oxford, and the University of G�ttingen. From 1884 to 1908 he was curator of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.

The excavations began at a very rapid pace, and by the end of 1903 almost all of the palace had been uncovered and work began on the surrounding area. Evans continued his researches until 1931, with an interruption for the duration of the First World War. He subsequently published his work in four volumes entitled "The Palace of Minos at Knossos". His chief assistant was the archaeologist D Mackenzie, who kept the basic daybook of the excavations.

From the beginning it proved necessary to preserve and restore the monuments that were being uncovered. A number of parts of the Palace were restored in this way, and considerable use was made of reinforced concrete in the work. The parts of the restoration that represent timber frames and other wooden structures were formerly painted yellow, but were later re painted by a colour conventionally representing wood. In a number of places, copies of the famous frescoes discovered, were installed. This method of restoration has received much criticism since it used materials foreign to Minoan architecture. Some scholars also dispute some of the conclusions of the pioneer British excavator.

All questions aside, Evans is constantly admired for his intuition, his creative imagination and his profound scholarship. It is to him that we owe the discovery of the marvellous Minoan Civilization, which until his time was only dimly reflected in Greek Mythology. His services have brought him international fame and recognition.

As a mark of honour, therefore, and to perpetuate his memory, his bust has been erected on the south side of the west court of the palace.

After his death in 1941 responsibility for the excavations at Knossos, which continue to the present day, was assumed by the British School of Archaeology.

Excavations at Knossos also revealed some 3000 clay tablets inscribed in two scripts later known as Linear A (or Minoan script) and Linear B (an early Greek dialect).

In Script a Minoan (volume 1, 1909; volume 2 posthumously, 1952) Evans dealt with the problem of decipherment of these scripts and the pictorial.

View pictures from the Palace of Knossos.

Evans was knighted in 1911. His other works include Palace of Minos (4 volumes, 1921-1935) and Jarn Mound (1933).

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