Sir Arthur Evans by Milo and Stella

Sir Arthur Evans was an archaeologist. He found the palace of Knossos in Crete. His expeditions led to many other important discoveries on Crete.

Here is a replica of Knossos that we made out of blocks for a scavenger hunt:


Crete is the biggest and most mountainous island in the Aegean Sea. Few thought that it could be a habitat for an advanced civilization. However, this is the story of one man whose theories led him to discover one of archaeology’s most major achievements.

Sir Arthur Evans was born on July 8, 1851 and died of natural causes on July 11, 1941. Evans was an archaeologist famous for his excavations in Crete and discovering Knossos, a palace of mass sophistication. Along with his friend and fellow archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann he was a pioneer in discovering the Bronze Age civilizations in the Aegean Sea.

Arthur was born in the town of Nash Mills, England. He was the first son of John Evans and Harriet Dickinson. His mother died when he was seven. For the rest of his childhood, he was raised by his step-mother Fanny. Arthur’s father, co-owned a paper mill. The mill’s profits would eventually fund Evans's expeditions.

In 1870, he went to Oxford’s Brasenose College. While in his 30’s he was appointed the curator of the Ashmolean Museum in the University of Oxford. He set out to improve the museum and make it more important. He gave a gift to the museum of Cretan coins and seal stones, these artifacts inspired and drew him to the island in 1894.

Bull-leaping, fresco from the Great Palace at Knossos, Crete, Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Picture from flickrrCC by Jorge - 11

After Heinrich Schliemann discovered Troy and guessed there was also an empire on the island of Crete, Evans became interested in proving him right.

In 1894, using his inheritance from his father, Evans was able to buy a particular site that he was interested in and start an excavation. He looked at this site because the inhabitants continually found many objects while tilling their fields. Also, an earlier excavation took place there by a Greek merchant but was stopped due to legal complications with the Turkish government. In 1899, the Turks had left and Evans was able to excavate freely.

In 1899 Evans uncovered Knossos. In Knossos he found a complicated array of corridors with pottery and frescoes. He dubbed the civilization that lived here the Minoans after the mythical King Minos that lived there in a Greek myth.

This was a very civilized empire. There was a class system, running water and magnificent frescoes depicting bull-leaping and wildlife decorating the walls. By 1903 most of the palace had been excavated and the workers had started to reconstruct the castle. In 1911 Arthur Evans was knighted for his discoveries.

Sir Evans tried to decipher the writing that was all over the palace. These scripts were called Linear A and Linear B. He was unsuccessful but delivered a lecture on what he knew about them at Oxford. This lecture however, inspired Alice Kober to decipher Linear B. Linear A remains a mystery. Evans was successful however, with the history of Crete which he divided into categories.

The rebuilding of Knossos was interrupted by WWI but after the war the work continued until 1931 when he retired. 10 years later he died in Boar’s Hill, England. Critics today say that the palace was skillfully excavated, but the reconstructed buildings were not historically accurate. They were an art deco style that was popular during the 1930’s.

Dolphin Fresco from Flickr
Dolphin Fresco from Flickr

Dolphin Fresco

Another error of Evans' is that he thought the Minoans and Knossos were more of a influential empire during the time period between 1600-1400 BCE . While an important kingdom, Knossos never reached Athens’s sophistication, cultural, military and political dominance.

His greatest achievements were finding Knossos, reconstructing it and giving us a better understanding of the Archaic Aegean history. Although the average person may not have heard about him or the Minoans, he remains an important figure in archaeology and world history.

Here is a Power Point we made:

Here are our sources of information and some sites you should check out for more info.


Internet sources:






Book sources:

Burrell, Roy, and Peter Connolly. The Greeks . New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Print.

Thomas Wall and Edward Miller, Ancient Crete, Oxford University Press, 1999. Print.


Bull Leaping Fresco

Dolphin Fresco