Minotaur:
Sir Arthur Evans and the Archeology of the Minoan Myth


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Minotaur: Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology of the Minoan Myth
by Joseph Alexander Macgillivray

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Book Description

Book Description
The intrepid Englishman who shaped the way we think about Europe and the Middle East.
Sir Arthur Evans was the diminutive, fiery archaeologist who, at an excavation in Knossos in 1900, discovered what he called the Palace of Minos and presented to the world his stunning re-creation of Minoan civilization. This is the first biography of a flamboyant and very influential man--written by a scholar with unparalleled expertise in the archaeology of Crete.
When Evans went to Greece after a mediocre career as a journalist in the Balkans, Heinrich Schliemann had recently uncovered what he claimed were Troy and Mycenae, famed cities of Homer; Evans, too, wanted to verify the factual basis for the myths that meant most to him. He found what he was looking for in Crete: he believed he located the origin of "tree and pillar worship," at the heart of Teutonic mythology in Europe but somehow linked to an early cult of the Greek god Zeus.
Joseph Alexander MacGillivray shows that Evans in fact anticipated what he found. Evans's Minoans were perfect Victorians: a peaceful, literate, aesthetic, just society where wise men held political office and powerful women ruled the people's hearts. Yet Knossos was not simply a lucky find, and MacGillivray shows Evans was a heroic figure struggling with many central themes concerning the origins of civilization. He concludes with his own assessment of our current knowledge about ancient Crete.

About the Author

About the Author
Joseph Alexander MacGillivray was educated at McGill and Edinburgh Universities. Since 1980, he has worked on the Cretan sites supervised by the British School of Archaeology in Athens, of which he was assistant director for some years.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
On the most obvious level, this splendid, multilayered book is a biography of Sir Arthur Evans, the archeologist most responsible for the excavation of the palace at Knossos on Crete, the center of Minoan civilization in the second millennium B.C. Evans's life and work provide a fascinating example of the private and professional lives of those Victorians whose superb education, nonconformist brilliance, determination and diligence resulted in major discoveries that continue, even today, to define dialogue concerning the origins of civilization in Western Europe.
But this book by MacGillivray (an archeologist who has worked on Crete) is much more than a biography of the right man at the right place at the right time.

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It was in the late 19th century that archeology moved from being essentially an international treasure hunt financed by wealthy individuals (as was the case with Schliemann and Troy) to a scholarly discipline with well-defined expectations for the conduct of an excavation, preservation of finds and publication about ancient sites. Evans was among a number of prominent archeologists who recognized the need for change and helped to make it possible, but only, it seems, grudgingly. The book's appeal, however, should reach far beyond readers interested specifically in Minoan civilization or in the process of archeological discovery. This richly detailed and engrossing account also illuminates the social, intellectual and military/political history of the give-and-take among the great European powers and the Ottoman Empire. It will also appeal to readers of travel literature as Evans and those around him were always on the move and insatiable sightseers. 24 pages b&w illus. not seen by PW (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
Archaeology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries mounted large excavations that produced astounding discoveries. In an age when archaeologists were often larger than life, Sir Arthur Evans was a towering figure. MacGillivray, who has worked on Crete for 20 years, amply illustrates the qualities that vaulted Evans into the spotlight and kept him there following his 1900 discovery of the "Palace of Minos." Evans was arrogant, self-assured, bigoted, single-minded, prone to hyperbole, and quick to judgment. His opinions, once formed, rarely wavered. But though Evans originally scorned Schliemann's adherence to Greek myth and narratives, he too adopted their themes as a framework. Through his excavations, Crete was validated as a potent force in the ancient Aegean. MacGillivray's engaging narrative nicely balances the personal and professional sides of Evans, an intense and driven man from the romanticized past of archaeology. Strongly recommended for public and academic libraries--Joyce L. Ogburn, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Amazon.com
Arthur Evans leapt into the public imagination with his 1900 discovery of Crete's Palace of Knossos, interpreted as the lair of the mythical Minotaur. Though his findings were a crowning achievement of archaeology's golden age, then, as now, questions have been raised about Evans's excavations and the conclusions he reached. In the richly detailed Minotaur, Joseph Alexander MacGillivray, who has himself excavated Crete, suggests that the man who gave us the very term Minoan provides a prime example of "how archaeological discovery occurs first in the mind." By examining Evans's life and work through his actions and correspondence, MacGillivray shows that Evans's evidence was "fully, even exaggeratedly exploited" but rarely reviewed. Adventurous, energetic, and highly observant, Evans also displayed "single-minded arrogance," "pomposity and manifest racism"--traits that invited misinterpretation, MacGillivray writes. The book also incorporates an interesting history of war-torn Crete and the Balkans as well as Evans's involvement in the region's politics. It finally outlines modern theories on Minoan civilization, though the "Palace and surrounding buildings are crumbling as fast as Evans's intellectual reconstruction," so that solid proof of any thesis is increasingly problematic. Fascinating as a portrait of the man who "gave the world a new chapter in its ancient history" and for its portrayal of the developing discipline of archaeology, Minotaur also poses some important questions about whether archaeologists are ever impartial observers. --Karen Tiley

 
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