Arthus Evans’ contribution

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Stratigraphy and Chronology Stratigraphy in the context of Arthur Evans is drawn from the digging and excavation that the Cretan government permitted subject to Ottoman firman. His dominance on the digging and excavation activities outperformed those of many other archaeologists. Arthur Evans employed stratigraphy and ceramic evidence to make a conclusion that an undiscovered civilization had existed on Crete even before Heinrich Schliemann presented his civilization discoveries about Mycenae and Tiryns (Gere 129). Arthur Evans named the newly discovered civilization the Minoan civilization. This Minoan civilization became his contribution to stratigraphy-driven archaeology.
The Crete excavations that had resulted in the discovery of the Minoan civilization had another essential contribution in store. Based on the Minoan civilization, Arthur Evans developed a relative dating scheme which he named Minoan chronology (MacGillivray 163). Arthur Evans had predominantly managed excavations at Knossos. For this reason, the Minoan chronology is purely attributed to him. This dating scheme would later be applied in Greek and the Cyclades Islands, thereby becoming a plan for dating prehistoric and early historic Aegean events (MacGillivray 174).
Works Cited
Gere, Cathy. Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2009. Print.
MacGillivray, Joseph. Minotaur: Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology of the Minoan Myth. New York: Hill and Wang (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 2000. Print.
Arthur Evans and Minoan Civilization: Background, Contributions and Criticisms
Arthur Evans was the world-renowned British archaeologist who excavated the palace of Knossos on the Greek island of Crete and developed the theory of Minoan civilization (Roberts 156). He was born on July 8, 1851 and passed away on July 11, 1941. Throughout his academic career, Evans contributed a great number of precious works which include Cretan Pictographs and Pre-Phoenician Script (1895), The Mycenaean Tree and Pillar Cult (1901), and The Palace of Minos (1921-1936) (Karetsou 364). These works have produced significant influence on the development of archaeology particularly in the field of European and Mediterranean Sea area history (Karetsou 381). Panagiotaki (257) contends that Evans also contributed largely to the study of ancient language by defining Cretan scripts Linear A and Linear B. The findings of Evans laid a solid groundwork for later research and provided guidance for the further work on these areas.
Evans was drawn to the field of ancient history due to both individual and social reasons. Evans was born in a highly educated and intellectual family. His grandfather was the Headmaster of Market Bosworth Grammar School and received a Master Degree in history. Arthur Evans’ father, John Evans, was capable of reading Latin which led him to large amounts of authoritative academic works written in Latin. John Evans also notably won the Lyell Medal for his outstanding academic achievements (Roberts 183). Under the deep academic influence of his father and grandfather, Arthur Evans became enthusiastic and passionate about history and academic research. Over the period between 1870 and 1874, he entered the Brasenose College of Oxon University to study history. After his graduation, Evans traveled to South East Europe and made several adventures during his trip. Through exploring the world of archaeology himself, Evans became more and more drawn to its many arcane and unexplained mysteries. Evans’ family background prepared him for exploring and creating even before his birth (Roberts 199).
Apart from the benefits from the environment under which Evans grew up, the fact that the world was open for archaeology also aided Evans throughout his way to become a world-renowned archaeologist. In 1875, Evans went to the Balkans. Since the region was then under martial law, Evans reported the overall archaeological environment of the Balkans and gradually became an expert on this area. Given this advantage, Arthur Evans was able to conduct a systematic research on the history, culture and geography of the Balkans. Evans was also heavily influenced by the work of another world-renowned archaeologist Heinrich Schilemann who is claimed to have defined the Mycenaean civilization. Evans and Schilemann were lifetime friends and inspired each other both academically and personally over the course of their lives. Schilemann planned to excavate Knossos but unfortunately passed away before being able to fulfill his dreams. Evans was enlightened by the works of Shilemann on the excavation of the palace of Knossos and found the difference between the Minoan civilization and the Mycenaean civilization. The fact that archaeology was still a relatively new science back then also helped foster a benign and thriving academic community for archaeologists to come. At that time, archaeology was still at its underdeveloped initial stage which left Evans much more freedom to formulate his theories and a lot fewer obstacles to walk into (Cremin 47). Additionally, Arthur Evans’ excavations at Knossos were assisted by the fact that the Minoan palace was not overlain by too many later periods of occupation, and because it had been destroyed by fire and still contained the remains of most of its artifacts and furnishings (Greene and Moore 48). However, due to the undeveloped excavating technology utilized in archaeological exploring also caused some damages to the excavating sites and led to certain criticism toward Evans’ work.
Evans conducted his research with the purpose to disclose the mysteries of the ancient Greek civilization, find the headstream of it, and deepen the knowledge of Mediterranean prehistory of the academic community. In 1883, Evans and his wife traveled to Greece and visited Schliemann. Schliemann showed Evans some of his collections and Evans found some of the distinctive seal stones with the patterns of marine creatures and sensitively got the clue that they might have come from a unique ancient civilization. Since then, the archaeologist was attracted by the seal stones and tried to find out the source of these artifacts. In 1894, Evans sailed to Crete to search for the seal stones. By finding a large amount of seal stones, he arrived at the assumption that an unknown civilization was buried there. The goals of his research became clear. He wanted to find out the civilization and reveal the secrets buried in Crete. Evans wrote in his diary: I copied the marks on the stones, some of which recall my ‘hieroglyphics’ (Castleden, Chapter 2). Since then, Evans decided to decipher the meanings of the seal stones. During the research, a book posed significant impact on Evans which was The Oriental Mirage written by Reinach. Reinach argued in the book that not all ancient civilizations came from the Orient. This led Evans to think where the Mycenaean civilization came from (Castleden Chapter 2). As a result, he spent years negotiating with the local authorities and eventually was permitted to purchase the land to facilitate his excavation (Panagiotaki 513).
Evans made great contributions to the Mediterranean prehistory. He successfully differentiated Minoan civilization from Mycenaean civilization. Through excavation and research on frescos, Evans found evidence suggesting that Minoan civilization might have been even older than Mycenaean civilization. Evans came to the conclusion that Priest-King at Knossos was one of the rulers of Knossos through the frescos and that the palace was considered as the center of a Bronze-Age civilization (Tate 51). Through Evans’ diligent efforts, the archaeology community has taken a step further forward and the general public has come to be more aware of ancient civilizations that were not yet fully revealed as well. Until nowadays, the palace of Knossos on the island of Crete is still one of the major excavating sites for archaeologists to conduct researches on ancient civilizations. Moreover, Evans interpreted and organized the Cretan scripts Linear A and Linear B. The pictographic writing was extremely crucial to researchers’ understanding of the ancient civilization. Evans’ discoveries on pictographic writing remain a respectable cornerstone in the realm of ancient language study.
In the grand scheme of things, Evans pushed forward the overall development of archaeology. In contrast to nineteenth-century excavators, Arthur Evans preserved and restored the crumbling gypsum masonry of the place at Knossos while excavation proceeded. His earliest photographs show a meticulously cleaned site, and the text demonstrates close attention to the stratigraphic positions of finds, both as dating evidence and as a means of interpreting the destruction of the palace. (Greene and Moore 48) Evans has paid special attention to maintain the materials of the palace of Knossos on the island of Crete. Large amounts of documents, records, and photos were preserved which enriched the resources available for future research. Figure 1 shows an illustration drawing from Evans’ report on excavations at Knossos. In this figure, Evans’ precisely located a vital piece of dating evidence beneath the wall and floor of part of the palace. This was a valuable material for people to trace back the excavations (Karetsou 551). Additionally, Evans had taken adequate preserving and documenting techniques to protect the frescos and artifacts and summarized the excavations periodically. Schliemann was not able to do all the above-mentioned work. At the time of Evans, the science of archaeology had not yet fully formed. Given the restricted conditions at the time, the works of Evans were extremely innovative and enlightening.
Figure 1: An illustration of excavation at Knossos
Source: Greene, Kevin, and Moore, Tom. 2010, p.91.
In spite of the contributions made by Evans, he also left some damages. Evans employed a large number of people to join in the excavations and they used little time to finish the work. Nowadays, the archaeologists usually have to take several years to complete an excavation. However, Evans and his workers finished excavating in only a few weeks from time to time. Due to such careless excavation, some artifacts were unfortunately destroyed. In fact, Evans judged the values of the artifacts by himself and the artifacts which did not get the sufficient attention were not maintained. In addition, since Evans purchased the land and reconstructed parts of the palace, modern decorating elements were blended into the frescos which did not quite match the style of the whole palace. The reconstruction was also solely based on the imagination of Evans to a large extent instead of detailed and solid supporting evidence (Cremin 22). Such lack of academic meticulousness hampered the re-establishment the original appearance of the palace meanwhile making it difficult for latter archaeologists to investigate Minoan civilization. Figure 2 shows an illustration of one of the restored areas. The restoration was not crudely made. Therefore, Evans was criticized to damage the original appearance and reduce the aesthetical values of the palace.
Figure 2: The colorful illustration of restored areas
Source: Cremin, Aedeen, 2007, p.22.
Though Evans had made brought damages to the palace of Knossos, he is still undoubtedly one of the most important figures in the world of archaeology. He was the first archaeologist who ever identified the existence of Minoan civilization and found the headstream of the ancient Greek civilization breaking the blind faith that all roots of civilization originated from the Orient. Arthur Evans was also a precursor on advancing excavating techniques and preserving methods. The techniques and methods that Evans utilized to protect the artifacts and record the process of excavation provided authoritative references and guidance for latter researchers. Arthur Evans is deemed as the leader of the modern archaeology and continues to generate positive influence on his successors.
Works cited
Castleden, Rodney. The Knossos Labyrinth. New York: Routledge, 2012. Print.
Cremin, Aedeen. Archaeological. London: Frances Lincoln Limited, 2007. Print.
Greene, Kevin, and Tom Moore. Archaeology: An Introduction. (5th ed.). New York: Routledge, 2010. Print.
Karetsou, Alexandra. Knossos after Evans: past interventions, present state and future solutions. British School at Athens Studies, 12(2004): 547-555.
Panagiotaki, Marina. Knossos and Evans: buying Kephala. British School at Athens Studies, 12(2004): 513-530.
Roberts, Peter. HSC Ancient History. Glebe NSW: Pascal Press, 2002. Print.
Tate, Karen. Sacred Places of Goodness. Paris: CCC Publishing, 2006. Print.