Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Many people dedicate their lives to history and uncovering the past. Sir Arthur J. Evans was one of the most well-known in the late 1800s. His discoveries of the Minoans still fascinate historians today.
During his life, Evans was one to travel. Europe was a familiar stomping ground and understanding history was his forte. It was in 1884 that the Ashmolean Museum located in Oxford obtained him as curator. To describe the museum as needing some love and tender care would be an understatement. His goal was to not only clean up the museum but to make it something more.
The next few years found Evans writing on various archeological subjects. It was not long before many of them turned to Ancient Greece. This began to fascinate him. Information on the Bronze Age of Greece was limited. Evanís attention was drawn to a site in Crete that had previously been worked on by another man, Minos Kalokairinos. He found one room full of jars and a few other rooms, but his digging was stopped by the Turkish authorities who at the time ruled Crete. Even Heinrich Schliemann attempted to purchase the excavation site, but was unable to.
A few years later, Crete won its independence from Turkey. Evans was able to fund the expedition and began to uncover a magnificent palace at Knossos. The palace had beautiful artwork and appeared to a labyrinth of rooms and corridors. In fact, the layout of the palace reminded Evans of the Greek myth about the Minotaur who was secreted in a labyrinth of caves by King Minos in shame. He had tricked the god, Apollo, and kept the magnificent bull he was to sacrifice to the god. In rage, the god made the Queen fall in love with the bull. The result was a child that had the body of a man and the head of a bull. Minos realized that he had been punished and had a labyrinth built to house the Minotaur. Like all Greek myths, there is so much more to the story, but the labyrinth style palace reminded Evans of the tale. It was supported by many pieces of art featuring bulls. Thus, the civilization became known as the Minoan civilization.
One of the biggest discoveries Evans made at Knossos were the 3000 tablets that had samples of Bronze Age Greece writing. Closer look showed two distinct types that were labeled Linear A and Linear B. The first to be deciphered was Linear B which proved to be an ancient Greek writing. Linear A appears to be from the Minoan time and has yet to be completely deciphered.
Knossos played a major role in Evans life until he died in 1941. He wrote books on the finds and worked closely with excavations and work on the tablets. It is from his hard work and desire to learn about the past that we know so much about the Bronze Age today.
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