website I will explore the discovery of
The story of
King Minos and his palace at
the deed, Daedalus was commissioned
to build a labyrinth under the palace (Castleden 1990).
According to one version of the myth,
It was these
stories, in addition to references
by other sources (such as Homer, Plutarch, Diodorus, Thucydides, and
which drew Sir Arthur Evans to search for this legendary palace at the
beginning of the twentieth century (Castleden 1990).
Evans was also living in the wake of Heinrich
Schliemann’s discovery of
Sir Arthur Evans
Photograph of Sir Arthur Evans.
Evans, the discoverer of the site of
Evans was born into a “rising middle
class” English family in 1851 and was the heir to a sizeable fortune
1981). Evans’ father was a brilliant man
who studied numismatics and paleontology (Horwitz 1981).
Evans received his education at
He set out to
find the site keeping in mind the
ancient sources he had read. He was
intimately involved with his work and admitted to being a micro-manager
(Horwitz 1981). I do not believe that he
purposefully tried to give incorrect information, but his
him to make decisions which greatly affect our view of Minoan history
perhaps give us a partially incorrect view of the
Discovery of the Site
Aerial view of the
Aerial view of the
Crete in relation to the Mediterranean.
and his team began digging on
Knossos site on the island of Crete.
The site is a
“large architectural complex,
traditionally called a ‘palace’ and considered to be the living
rulers” (Biers 1996, 26). The foundation
of the site covers six and a half acres (
The Minoans used a wooden post-and-lintel system, in addition to stone blocks, rubble, and mud brick, to form the walls (Biers 1996). The “basement” consisted of many long thin storage areas called magazines which held food and valuables (Biers 1996). We know that the “palace” was at least one story because of the thickening of the walls and heavy pier foundations (Biers 1996). The three locations I will be focusing on are the “Queen’s apartment,” the “Procession Corridor” and the “Great Goddess Sanctuary.”
and the Debate
many things which could be debated
about the findings at
The Priest king
This fresco was located in the southern portion of the complex with the remains of the “procession” fresco (Castleden 1990).
The remains were found in fragments in the basement.
First, the “Priest-King” fresco (also called “Prince of the Lilies”) was interpreted by Evans as being a depiction of king Minos (Castleden 1990). Evans found this to be completely logical because it agreed with the ancient sources and his own preconceptions about the site (Castleden 1990). However, there are several problems with his conclusion.
Notice that the rough portions are the original fragments.
“priest-king” fragments found were
part of a procession fresco with many human figures, so Evans was very
reading into this one male figure (Castleden 1990).
Second, there were only a few scattered
fragments left to even guess at a reconstruction (Castleden 1990). Third, Evans had the “priest-king”
the head of the procession when there may have actually been several
front of it (Castleden 1990). Fourth,
the headdress which signified his kingship, in Evans’ mind, may have
to another figure all together (it may have actually belonged to a
(Castleden 1990). This fresco was Evans’
best piece of evidence supporting his assumption that the
The Dolphin Fresco
An artistic recreation of the “Queen’s Apartments.”
Notice that it is only the dark blotches which are the original portions of the fresco.
The third fresco to discuss is the “bull-leaping” or “Toreador” fresco which was found in the “Great Goddess Sanctuary” (the destroyed remains fell to the basement) in the east wing of the complex (Castleden 1990).
“Great Goddess Sanctuary” in relation to the rest of the palace. Close up view of the “Great Goddess Sanctuary.”
appearance of bulls at
“The graceful fling of the legs and arms, the backward bend of the head and body give a sense of untrammeled motion…These youthful figures are athletic-not to say acrobatic-in their nature, and certain parallels presented by the palace wall-paintings, as well as by a series of gem impressions, seems to connect them in the most unmistakable way with the favourite [sic] sport of the Minoan arena-the bull-grappling scenes” (MacGillivray, “Minotaur” 2000, 220).
there are several other theories as to
what this fresco illustrates. Some
skeptics say that leaping over a bull in the manner depicted is
impossible (Castleden 1990). MacGillivray
says it is impossible, because bulls twist their necks while charging
(MacGillivray “Labyrinths” 20000).
Others interpret the scenes of bull-leaping as a religious
of a bull cult (Castleden 1990). In
case we should be careful about treating this scene as realistic
1990). The bull is very stylized, its’
neck is very disproportionate to its small stubby legs, showing power
motion (Biers 1996). MacGillivray argues
that instead this scene depicts constellations: “Orion confronts
composed of the Hyades and Pleiades (the seven sisters), while Perseus
somersaults with both arms extended over the bull's back to rescue
recognizable by the rope (not shown in all representations) that
her hand” (MacGillivray “Labyrinths” 2000).
We are left to wonder what these scenes (which are found in many
places in the Back
Discussion and Conclusion
1. Should mythology and oral tradition be used as evidence for interpreting artifacts and sites?
Answer: I think that mythology can be a helpful starting point for finding a site and perhaps understanding the evidence, but other interpretations need to be carefully examined.
2. Was Sir Arthur Evans trying to mislead people through his reconstructions?
Answer: I believe
sincerely believed in what he was doing, but I think he was too quick
3. Can we
Answer: We need to
interpretation with “a grain of salt.”
There are many scholarly articles listed in my bibliography
propose alternative explanations for the
As you can see the
Annotated Links and
1. URL: http://www.bsa.ac.uk/knosos/
Name of Web Site: bsa.ac.uk
Sponsor/Author: The British
Authoritative?: Yes New Information?: Fairly new
Date Published: Last news update
This site was
created by the
2. URL: http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/MINOA/MINOANS.HTM
Name of Web Site: wsu.edu Sponsor/Author:
Authoritative?: Somewhat New Information?: No
Date Published: Last updated
is hosted by
3. URL: http://www.odysseyadventures.ca/articles/knossos/knossos_evans.htm
Name of Web Site: odysseyadventures.ca Sponsor/Author:
Authoritative?: Somewhat New Information?: Yes
Date Published: Last updated October 2009
this is actually a travel agency, but it has a very helpful layout of
4. URL: http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/prehistory/aegean/pre-greece/minoan/minoan.html
Name of Web Site: msnu.edu Sponsor/Author:
Authoritative?: Somewhat New Information?: No
Accessed: I accessed it on
This site is
5. URL: http://www.culture.gr/h/3/eh351.jsp?obj_id=2369
Name of Web Site: culture.gr Sponsor/Author: Hellenic Ministry of Culture
Authoritative?: Somewhat New Information?: No
Date Published: 2007
This site is hard to read because of it having to be translated into English. But it has some great images and more information about Sir Arthur Evans and the history of the site. The images are much clearer than on other sites which I have visited and students may find them helpful.
6. URL: http://ancient-greece.org/history/minoan.html
Name of Web Site: ancient-greece.org
Sponsor/Author: Thomas Sakoulas is an
Associate Professor of
Art at the State University of New York
Authoritative?: Somewhat New Information?: It appears to be a newer site.
Date Published: 2003-2009
included more information about the economy and geography of the Minoan
civilization. It also includes details
about several periods of Minoan history which I did not cover in my
website. At the end it proposes a theory
Minoan civilization ended. It has a
section on the archaeology of
7. URL: http://www.archaeology.org/
Name of Web Site: archaeology.org Sponsor/Author: This site is a publication of the Archaeological
Authoritative?: Yes New Information?: Unfortunately most of the article abstracts are from 2006 or before.
Date Published: 2008
is a publication of the Archaeological
8. URL: http://www.loggia.com/myth/content.html
Name of Web Site: loggia.com Sponsor/Author:
Authoritative?: No New Information?: No
Date Published: Updated
purpose of this site is to give people the opportunity to study art and
humanities. The portion of the site most
helpful to students will be the Greek mythology section.
This section has links to all the characters
9. URL: http://www.ou.edu/finearts/art/ahi4913/aegeanhtml/minoan.html
Name of Web Site: ou.edu Sponsor/Author:
Authoritative?: No New Information?: No
This site is
hosted by the
10. URL: http://www.theoi.com/Ther/Minotauros.html
This webpage is devoted to the
sources (both literary and material) we have about the Minotaur. It includes references by ancient sources
about the Minotaur and links to more characters in the myth. It also has a short name comparison and
images from pottery and frescos. This is
a great site for students to look directly at what the ancient sources
about the Minotaur and how that might have influenced Sir Arthur Evans.
Name of Web Site: theio.com Sponsor/Author: Aaron J. Atsma
Authoritative?: Yes in that it uses ancient sources. New Information?: No
Date Published: 2000-2008
Conservation and reconstruction at the Palace of Minos at Knossos: Seminar at the University of York, 1996. Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites, 2, 121-124.
ALBERTI, B. 2001. Faience Goddesses and Ivory Bull-Leapers: The Aesthetics of Sexual Difference at Late Bronze Age Knossos. World Archaeology, 33, 189-205.
BIERS, W. R. 1996. The Archaeology of Greece an Introduction [Online]. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press. Available: http://books.google.com/books?id=XOA2AAAAMAAJ [Accessed].
BRIAULT, C. 2007. Making Mountains Out of Molehills in the Bronze Age Aegean: Visibility, Ritual Kits, and the Idea of a Peak Sanctuary. World Archaeology, 39, 122-141.
CAMERON, M. A. S. 1968. Unpublished Paintings from the 'House of the Frescoes' at Knossos. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 63, 1-31.
__________, JONES, R. E. & PHILIPPAKIS, S. E. 1977. Scientific Analyses of Minoan Fresco Samples from Knossos. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 72, 121-184.
CASTLEDEN, R. 1990. The Knossos Labyrinth: A New View of the "Palace of Minos" at Knosos, London; New York, Routledge.
CHADWICK, J, KILLEN, J. T. & OLIVIER, J. P. 1971. The Knossos tablets, London, Cambridge University Press.
CHAPIN, A. P. 1997. A Re-Examination of the Floral Fresco from the Unexplored Mansion at Knossos. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 92, 1-24.
__________. 2004. Power, Privilege, and Landscape in Minoan Art. Hesperia Supplements, 33, 47-64.
COFFEY, M. 1991. A Cretan cycle: fragments unearthed from Knossos, Santa Barbara, Calif, Bandanna Books.
COLE, K. 2000. Places in Time: The Ancient Mediterranean - Ancient Crete, Fresco from the Palace at Knossos: Bull Leaping. School arts, 100, 27.
DAVARAS, K. 1980. The Palace of Knossos: Brief Illustrated Archaeological Guide, Athens, Editions Hannibal.
DOUGLAS, C. 2004. Architecture and the Archaeology of Excess: Sir Arthur Evans' Reconstructions at Knossos.
DOXTATER, D. 2009. Rethinking the Sacred Landscape: Minoan Palaces in a Georitual Framework of Natural Features on Crete. Landscape journal, 28, 1.
EVANS, A. 1900. Knossos; summary report of the excavations in 1900. I. The palace, London.
__________. 1902. The palace of Minos. Annual report.
__________. 1926. Work of Reconstitution in the Palace of Knossos, S.l, s.n.
__________, CAMERON, M. & HOOD, S. 1967. Knossos Fresco Atlas. Catalogue of Plates in Sir Arthur Evans' Knossos Fresco Atlas, [Farnborough (Hants.), Gregg Press.
___________. & MACKENZIE, D. 1900. Note books of Sir Arthur Evans and Duncan Mackenzie on the Excavations of Knossos, 1900-29, S.l, s.n.
__________. & MACKENZIE, D. 1989. [Day book of the excavations at Knossos, 1900-1929, Bicester, Oxfordshire, Bell + Howell.
__________. 1901. The Palace of Knossos. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 8, 1-124.
__________. 1903. The Palace of Knossos. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 10, 1-62.
__________. 1972. The Early Minoan Occupation of Knossos: A Note on Some New Evidence. Anatolian Studies, 22, 115-128.
__________. 1974. Time and chance; the story of Arthur Evans and his forebears, Westport, Conn., Greenwood Press.
EVANS, J. & EVANS, A. 1986. Index to the Palace of Minos, London, Macmillan.
FAGAN, G. G. 2006. Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public, London; New York, Routledge.
FARNOUX, A. 1996. Knossos: Searching For the Legendary Palace of King Minos, New York, H.N. Abrams.
GERMAN, S. C. 2005. Photography and Fiction: The Publication of the Excavations at the Palace of Minos at Knossos. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 18, 209.
GRAHAM, J. W. 1962. The Palaces of Crete, Princeton, N.J, Princeton University Press.
HAMILAKIS, Y. 2002. Labyrinth Revisited: Rethinking 'Minoan' Archaeology, Oxford, Oxbow.
HASKELL, H. W, Cleveland Archaeological, S. & Archaeological Institute of, A. 1999. Archaeological science in reconstructing the past uses and abuses (Knossos, Crete). Cleveland, OH: Cleveland Archaeological Society.
HATZAKI, E. & BRITISH SCHOOL AT, A. 2005. Knossos, the Little Palace, London, British School at Athens.
HONOUR, A. 1961. Secrets of Minos; Sir Arthur Evans' Discoveries at Crete, New York, McGraw-Hill Book Co.
HOOD, S., EVELY, D., HUGHES-BROCK, H. & MOMIGLIANO, N. 1994. Knossos, A Labyrinth of History: Papers Presented in Honour of Sinclair Hood, [London, England]; Bloomington, IN, USA, British School at Athens; David Brown Book Co. [distributor].
__________. & SMYTH, D. 1981. Archaeological Survey of the Knossos area, [Athens]; [London], British School at Athens; Thames and Hudson.
___________. & TAYLOR, B. 1981. The Bronze Age Palace at Knossos: Plan and Sections, [London], British School at Athens.
HORWITZ, S. L. 1981. The Find of a Lifetime: Sir Arthur Evans and the Discovery of Knossos, New York, Viking Press.
ISAAKIDOU, V. & TOMKINS, P. Year. Escaping the Labyrinth: the Cretan Neolithic in Context. In, 2008 Oxford; Oakville, CT. Oxbow Books; David Brown Book Co., [distributor].
KENNER, H. 2002. Minotaur: Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology of the Minoan Myth (review). Common Knowledge, 8, 205.
KLYNNE, A. 1998. Reconstructions of Knossos: Artists' Impressions, Archaeological Evidence and Wishful Thinking. JOURNAL OF MEDITERRANEAN ARCHAEOLOGY, 11, 206-229.
KOEHL, R. B. 1986. A Marinescape Floor from the Palace at Knossos. American Journal of Archaeology, 90, 407-417.
LEAPING, B. & COLE, K. 2000. Places in Time: The Ancient Mediterranean Ancient Crete, Fresco from the Palace at Knossos. SCHOOL ARTS, 100, 27.
LOGIADOU-PLATONOS, S. 1980. Knossos: The Palace of Minos, a Survey of the Minoan Civilization; Mythology, Archaeology, History, Museum, Excavations, Athens, Greece, I. Mathioulakis & Co.
MACENROE, J. 1995. Sir Arthur Evans and Edwardian Archaeology, Wauconda, IL, Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers.
MACGILLIVRAY, J. A. 2000a. Features - Labyrinths and Bull-Leapers - In Judging Everything He Found at Knossos to be Indigenous, the British Antiquarian Sir Arthur Evans Misguided Generations of Minoan Scholars. Archaeology, 53, 53.
__________. 2000b. Minotaur: Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology of the Minoan Myth, New York, Hill and Wang.
MACKENZIE, D. & MOMIGLIANO, N. 1996. Evans, Mackenzie, and the History of the Palace at Knossos. The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 116, 166-169.
MATHIOULAKIS, C. Z. & GOUVOUSSIS, N. 1973. Knossos: The Palace of Minos, With Its Dependent Builndings [sic], the Minoan Civilization, and the Museum of Heraklion: Mythology, Archaeology, Excavations, Explanatory Text of Map, Athens, The Authors.
MICHAILIDOU, A. 1981. Knossos, A Complete Guide to the Palace of Minos, Athens, Ekdotike Athenon.
MOMIGLIANO, N. 1999. Duncan Mackenzie: A Cautious Canny Highlander & the Palace of Minos at Knossos, London, Institute of Classical Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.
MORGAN, L, CAMERON, M. & BRITISH SCHOOL AT, A. 2005. Aegean Wall Painting: A Tribute to Mark Cameron, London, British School at Athens.
PALMER, L. R. 1969. A New Guide to the Palace of Knossos, New York, Praeger.
POPHAM, M. R. 1964. The Palace at Knossos: A Matter of Definition and A Question of Fact, s.l, s.n.
SBARGE, S. 1978. Palace of King Minos Interior. Throne room.
SELDEN, G. 1964. Sir Arthur Evans, Discoverer of Knossos, New York, Macmillan.
SHAW, M. C. 1996. The Bull-Leaping Fresco From Below the Ramp House at Mycenae: A Study in Iconography and Artistic Transmission. The Annual of the British School at Athens, 91, 167-190.
_________. 2004. The "Priest-King" Fresco from Knossos: Man, Woman, Priest, King, or Someone Else? Hesperia Supplements, 33, 65-84.
SHERRATT, S. & ASHMOLEAN, M. 2000. Arthur Evans, Knossos and the Priest-King, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum.
SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY. FINE ARTS DEPT. SLIDE, C. Palace of Minos Knossos, Crete. Bull-Leaping Fresco [Online]. Available: http://digitallibrary.syr.edu/birdfa/T0000162.jpg [Accessed].
VASSILAKIS, A. 1990. Knossos: Mythology, History, Guide to the Archaeological Site, Athens, Greece, Adam Editions.
VAUGHAN, A. C. 1959. The House of the Double Axe; The Palace at Knossos, Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday.
WARREN, P. 2000. Sir Arthur Evans and His Achievement.
WHITLEY, J. 1998. Knossos without Minos. American Journal of Archaeology: The Journal of the Archaeological Institute of America., 102, 611.
WOOD, M., LYONS, B., ADAMS, C. & BRITISH BROADCASTING, C. 1985. The Legend under Siege. Wilmette, Ill.: British Broadcasting Corp: Films Distributed [distributor].
WUNDERLICH, H.-G. 1974. The secret of Crete, New York, Macmillan.
Back to top