Knossos in detail

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Feature: Sir Arthur Evans: the Excavator of Knossos

British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans was an avid amateur journalist and adventurer, as well as curator of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford from 1884 to 1908. His special interest in ancient coins and the writing on stone seals from Crete brought him to the island for the first time in 1894. He had a hunch that the mainland Mycenaean civilisation derived originally from Crete. With the help of the newly formed Cretan Archaeological Society, he began negotiating the purchase of the land, originally excavated in 1878 by Cretan archaeologist Minos Kalokerinos, eventually securing it in 1900 after Greek laws changed in his favour. Digging began and the palace quickly revealed itself.

Over the course of 35 years of excavations, Evans unearthed the remains of a Neolithic civilisation beneath the remains of the Bronze Age Minoan palace. He also discovered some 3000 clay tablets containing Linear A and Linear B script and wrote his own definitive description of his work at Knossos in a four-volume opus called The Palace of Minos. Evans received many honours for his work and was knighted in 1911.

Evans’ reconstruction methods continue to be controversial. Many archaeologist believe that he sacrificed accuracy to his overly vivid imagination.