Minotaur: Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology of the Minoan Myth
1 Jan 2001
At the turn of the 20th century, Sir Arthur Evans claimed that he had discovered the labyrinth constructed by Daedelus at Knossos which housed the Minotaur. We know of the Minoans of Crete from the legend of Ariadne and Theseus, and from Homer's description in "The Iliad". Evans was the most notorious and celebrated archaeologist of the early 20th century, inheriting the mantle of Schliemann who uncovered the site of Mycenae, and the tombs of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon in the process, and claimed the site of Troy. As the discoverer of the last of the great lost civilizations, Evans saw it as his task to show the crucial importance of the Minoans to Western civilization. What we know now is that the pacific civilization of the Minoans and the reconstructions Evans made were a romantic invention, shoehorned into the prejudices and presumptions of late 19th-century historical thought. Evans was a fabulist, and from a close examination of Evans's papers, Professor MacGillivray shows him in his true colours quarrelling with his more scrupulous rivals, caught up in Greek and Turkish politics, a driven man arrogantly propounding a distorted view of the origins of Cretan culture.