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Sir Arthur John Evans (8 July 185111 July 1941) was a British archaeologist most famous for unearthing the palace of Knossosmarker on the Greekmarker island of Cretemarker at Kephala Hill and for developing the concept of "Minoan civilization" from the structures and artifacts there and elsewhere in Crete and the eastern Mediterranean. He was the first to define the Cretan scripts, Linear A and Linear B as well as an earlier pictographic writing. He and Heinrich Schliemann are considered the two major pioneers in the study of Aegean civilization in the Bronze Age. Although Schliemann died before Evans got started at Knossos the two men knew of each other. Evans visited Schliemann's sites. Schliemann had planned to excavate at Knossos himself but he reached the end of life before that dream could be fulfilled. Evans immediately bought the site and stepped in to take charge of the project that was then still in its infancy. He continued Schliemann's concept of "Mycenaean civilization" but soon found that he needed to distinguish another civilization — his "Minoan". Some of his theories about Minoan and Aegean civilization were discredited and proven wrong in the decades following his death.

Biographical

Family background

Evans was born in Nash Millsmarker, Englandmarker, the oldest and first child of John Evans and Harriet Ann Dickinson, the daughter of John's employer, inventor and founder of Messrs John Dickinson, a paper mill. Harriet was John's first cousin on his mother's side. John, descendant of a male line that was both educated and kept up a tradition of being intellectually active, was nevertheless undistinguished by either wealth or aristocratic connection. Starting work at the family business in lieu of going to college in 1840, he was made a full partner in 1851 after his marriage. Profits from the mill would eventually fund Arthur's excavations and restorations at Knossos and resulting publications.

While maintaining his status as a chief officer in the company, John became distinguished for his quasi-professional pursuits in numismatics, geology and archaeology. His interest in geology came from an assignment by the company to scientifically study water resources in the area. Streams are often a good source for stone-age artifacts. John had already profited from the education he did have. He knew Latin and could and did quote the authors. In 1859 he conducted a geological survey of the Somme Valleymarker with Joseph Prestwich and began to collect and study flint implements. He eventually published works on those topics. He joined the Royal Society in 1864, serving as various officers, won the Lyell Medal, and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1892.

Meanwhile Harriet had a child every year or every other year until she died in 1858 when Arthur was 7. He had acquired two brothers, Norman and Lewis and two sisters, remaining on excellent terms with all of them all of his life. He was raised by a stepmother, Fanny, with whom he also got along very well. She had no children of her own. Later in life, after the death of Fanny and John's remarriage, they were joined by a half-sister (Joan) by John's third wife, a classical scholar. John was 70. By the time of John's death in 1908 at 85 and inheritance by Arthur of a share in the wealth the major work on Knossos had already been done mainly with funds other than those from the business. However, Arthur had enjoyed the close support and assistance of his father, who contributed heavily.

Education

Arthur was given every advantage of education. After a childhood stay at Callipers Preparatory School (no longer extant) he attended Harrow Schoolmarker, becoming co-editor of The Harrovian in his final year, 1869/70. At Harrow he was friends especially with Francis Maitland Balfour, with whom he later hiked over Lapland and Finlandmarker, and who was killed in a mountain-climbing incident on Mont Blancmarker in 1882. Graduating from Harrow Evans became part of and relied on the Old Harrovian network of acquaintances. Minchin characterized him as "a philologer and wit" as well as an expert on "the eastern question." Arthur continued his father's habit of quoting the appropriate Latin author from memory and knew some poems entirely by heart.

Between 1870 and 1874 Arthur matriculated at Brasenose Collegemarker, Oxfordmarker. His housemaster at Harrow, F. Rendall, had got him in with a recommendation that he was "a boy of powerful original mind." At Brasenose he read modern history, but his summertime activities were perhaps more definitive to his subsequent career. In 1871 he and Lewis visited Hallstattmarker and the Balkans; in 1872 he and Norman adventured in the Carpathians, crossing borders illegally at high altitudes, pistols at the ready. In 1873 he and Balfour tramped over Swedenmarker, Finlandmarker and Lappland. Everywhere he went he took copious anthropological notes and made numerous drawings of the people, places and artifacts. During the Christmas holidays of 1873 Evans cataloged a coin collection being bequeathed to Harrow by John Gardner Wilkinson, who was too ill to work on it himself. The headmaster of Harrow had suggested "my old pupil, Arthur John Evans - a remarkably able young man."

In April-July 1875 after failing to obtain a fellowship at Oxford Arthur attended a summer term at the University of Göttingenmarker. He decided not to stay and left there to meet Lewis for another trip to the Balkans. This was the end of his formal education.

Reporter for the Manchester Guardian

After resolving to leave Göttingen, Arthur and Lewis planned an adventure in Bosnia-Herzegovina starting immediately (August, 1875). They knew that the region, a part of the Ottoman empire, was under martial law, and that the Christians (mainly the Serbs) were in a state of insurrection against the Bosnian Muslim beys placed over them. Ottoman troops were in the country in support of the beys.

The two young men had no problem with either the Serbs or the Ottomans but they did provoke the neighboring Austro-Hungarian Empire on the border and spent the night in "a wretched cell." Deciding to lodge in a good hotel in Slavonski Brodmarker (Arthur's "Brood") because it would have been safer than Bosanski Brodmarker across the Sava River, they were observed by an officer who saw their sketches and concluded they might be Russian spies. Politely invited by two other officers to join the police chief and produce passports, Arthur said "Tell him that we are Englishmen and are not accustomed to being treated in this way." The officers insisted and interrupting the chief at dinner Arthur suggested he should have come to the hotel in person to request the passports. The chief in a somewhat less than civil manner won the argument about whether he had the right to check the passports of Englishmen by inviting them to spend the night in a cell.

Crete excavations

Before Evans began work in Crete, archaeologist Minos Kalokairinos unearthed two of the palace’s storerooms in 1878, but the Turkish government interrupted his work before he could complete its excavations. Evans had been deciphering script on seal stones on Crete in 1894 and when the island was declared an independent state in 1900, he purchased the site and began his excavations of the palace ruins. Arthur Evans found 3,000 clay tablets during excavations and worked to transcribe them. From the transcriptions it was clear that the tablets bore traces of more than one script. Evans dated the Linear A Chariot Tablets at Knossos as immediately prior to the catastrophic Minoan civilization collapse of the 15th century BC.

On the basis of the ceramic evidence and stratigraphy, Evans concluded that there was a civilization on Crete before the civilizations recently brought to light by the adventurer-archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann at Mycenaemarker and Tirynsmarker. The small ruin of Knossos spanned and had a maze-like quality to it that reminded Evans of the labyrinth described in Greek mythology as having been built by King Minos to hide his monstrous child. Thus, Evans dubbed the civilization once inhabiting this great palace the Minoans. By 1903, most of the palace was excavated, bringing to light an advanced city containing artwork and many examples of writing. Painted on the walls of the palace were numerous scenes depicting bulls, leading Evans to conclude that the Minoans did indeed worship the bull. In 1905 he finished excavations at Knossosmarker.

Scripta Minoa - The source of the Phoenician alphabet

Evans, in his 1901 work Scripta Minoa, claimed that most of the symbols for the Phoenician abjad are almost identical to the many centuries older, 19th century BC, Cretan hieroglyphs.

The basic part of the discussion about Phoenician alphabet in Scripta Minoa, Vol. 1 takes place in the section Cretan Philistines and the Phoenician Alphabet, pages 77–94. Modern scholars now see it as a continuation of the Proto-Canaanite alphabet from ca. 1400 BC, adapted to writing a Canaanite (Northwest Semitic) language. The Phoenician alphabet seamlessly continues the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, by convention called Phoenician from the mid 11th century, where it is first attested on incribed bronze arrowheads.

The table of p.
87 from Scripta Minoa showing the relation between the Phoenician letters and the Cretan hieroglpyphs and Linear script.
This table is about the Phoenician letters of which the names have no known meaning in any semitiic language.


The table of p.
89 from Scripta Minoa showing the relation between the Phoenician letters and the Cretan hieroglpyphs and Linear script.
This table is about the Phoenician letters of which the names have meaning in some semitiic language.
Hi


Legacy

Evans was knighted in 1911 for his services to archaeology and is commemorated both at Knossos and at the Ashmolean Museummarker. In 1913 he paid out of his own pocket £100 to double the amount paid with the studentship established jointly by the University of London and the Society of Antiquaries in memory of Augustus Wollaston Franks, won that year by Mortimer Wheeler.

Evans should also be remembered for his own obstinate Creto-centrism which led to unfriendly debate between himself and the mainland archaeologists Carl Blegen and Alan Wace.

From 1894 until his death Evans lived on Boars Hillmarker, near Oxford. His house, 'Youlbury', has since been demolished. He had Jarn Mound built (by hand), surrounded by a wild garden, to make work during the depression years. Evans left part of his estate to the Boy Scouts and Youlbury Camp is still available for their use.

Publications







Line notes

  1. Downloadable Google Books.
  2. Downloadable Google Books.
  3. Downloadable Google Books.
  4. Hogan, C. Michael (2007) Knossos
  5. Markoe (2000), p. 111.


Sources

  • Cottrell, Leonard (1957). The Bull of Minos. An account of the archaeology of Crete for the general reader, with much information about Evans's work.
  • Evans, A.J. (1901). Scripta Minoa - Volume 1.
  • Evans, A.J. (1952). Scripta Minoa - Volume 2.
  • Evans, A.J. (1933). Jarn Mound.
  • Hogan, C. Michael (2007) Knossos, The Modern Antiquarian [7275]
  • Markoe, Glenn E.(2000). Phoenicians. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-226135 (hardback).
  • Powell, Dilys (1973). The Villa Ariadne. Originally published by Hodder & Stoughton, London.
  • Ross, J. (1990). Chronicle of the 20th Century. Chronicle Australia Pty Ltd. ISBN 1872031803.
  • MacGillivray, J Alexander (2001). Minotaur - Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology of the Minoan Myth. Published by Pimlico, a division of Random House. (Originally published by Jonathan Cape in 2000).
  • Arthur Evans - Ancient Illyria: An Archaeological Exploration (Hardcover)



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