Sir Arthur Evans - Famous Archaeologist

Updated on March 4, 2017

Bust of Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos


Sir Arthur Evans 1851-1941

Famous for the uncovering of the Minoan palace of Knossos on Crete, Sir Arthur Evans placed his own unique interpretation on what he revealed. His controversial theories about the ancient Minoans were scorned by many. Sir Arthur was also criticised for his restoration work at Knossos using materials unknown to the Minoans such as reinforced concrete. His liberal approach to the restorations of several frescoes also came under fire, yet no one can deny his success as a founding father of archaeology. He was one of the first archaeologists to use a large scale systematic methodology. His legacy survives him in the classic works he published and in the name he gave the civilisation he uncovered - The Minoans. He is remembered for his excellence in scholarship, his intuitive grasp and his creative imagination. We owe our knowledge of the Minoan Civilisation to Sir Arthur Evans.

Fossil hunters Sir Arthur Evans and Eugene Dubois


Dig at Knossos


About Sir Arthur

Sir Arthur was the son of Sir John Evans, an eminent numismatist (coin expert), prehistoric archaeologist and successful businessman. As a boy he was fascinated with the inscriptions on his father's coins and artefacts. Sir John's wealth allowed the young Arthur to be well educated. Sir Arthur achieved notoriety and success as a student and through his adventures as a young man. He served as a war correspondent in Bosnia in the 1870s where he identified a number of Roman roads and towns. Physically he was a small man, but was noted for his toughness and and tenacity. He was also a respected scholar and held the curatorship of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford from 1884-1908. He went on to become a profesor of prehistoric archaeology at Oxford in 1909. He was knighted in 1911.

The Island of Crete


Excavations at Knossos

Crete was a Turkish possession until 1898. After independence from the Turkish Ottoman Empire, the local government on Crete allowed excavations to go ahead at Knossos. They had previously banned excavations for fear that anything discovered would be seized by the Turks and removed to Istanbul. Sir Arthur had been to Crete in 1894-5 with a friend, John Myres (who was later to win fame for his excavations on Cyprus). The two were hunting for artefacts and sites. They both believed the ancient Greek myths were based on historical fact. Myres and Sir Arthur had an interest in digging at Kephala (Knossos) along with another famous archaeologist - Heinrich Schliemann. At that time the Turks were still in control and no one was successful in terms of excavation.

Sir Arthur eventually purchased the site at Kephala. It took roughly four years from when he commenced the dig in March 1900 to uncover the 13,000 square metre palace complex site. He continued to work on the site for approximately thirty years, during a period that encompassed two world wars. Work still continues at Knossos.

The Palace Complex at Knossos


Fresco in the Throne Room at Knossos


Knossos was a Literate Society

Among the spectacular finds of Knossos, Sir Arthur uncovered a large number of clay tablets or stone seals containing a style of hieroglyphic script. Sir Arthur postulated a theory of the picture-writing literacy of the Cretan islands languages "Linear A" and "Linear B" found on these stones. Linear A has never been deciphered. Linear B was ultimately determined to be an ancient form of Greek by Michael Ventris in 1953.  

Deciphering Linear B

Criticism of Sir Arthur

Sir Arthur restored parts of the palace at Knossos during his excavations. He used reinforced concrete to rebuild walls, rooms and columns. He painted the renovated columns and other structures in tones that reflected paint fragments he found on the structures. See the picture below for an example. He has been much criticised for this on the basis that the ancient Minoans could never have used reinforced concrete. Sir Arthur was enthusiastic about what he found, declaring one room to the the 'Throne Room' of King Minos, relying heavily on Greek mythology. He restored the throne room room in what he thought was a fitting manner. He has been criticised for this type of enthusiasm. Modern archaeologists avoid 'over-interpretation' and the use of modern materials in restoration.

The chronology Sir Arthur created for Knossos was inconsistent with the work of others in the same field. Later investigations of Knossos revealed the miscalculations made by Sir Arthur and showed that the connection with King Minos was closer to romance than reality. He has even been condemned by some as a falsifier of history. He overrated the importance of Cretan culture in the early Aegean history. Nonetheless no one can doubt the truly spectacular nature of what he uncovered or the brilliance of his scholarship. Sir Arthur Evans was not a treasure hunter, unlike several of the earlier archaeologists. He had a genuine love of his work and was dedicated to the study of ancient history. Sir Arthur is celebrated by a large bust placed at the palace at Knossos (pictured above).

Thank you for your visit!

Thanks for stopping by. If you like my work please do vote and leave feedback. Please feel free to leave a comment and checkout my other work by clicking on the links below. Thanks again for your visit - Mel.

Restoration of Knossos



  • Odyssey Adventures
  • Dictionary of Art Historians
  • Omniglot
  • Paul Bain (ed), (2008), The Great Archaeologists, Southwater, London.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • profile image


        3 years ago

        how did he become an archaeologist?

      • profile image

        arthur evans III 

        8 years ago

        this is amazing this man looks totally like my grand father arthur evans senior and my father arthur evans jr always wondered were the name evans came from

      • Mel Jay profile imageAUTHOR

        Mel Jay 

        8 years ago from Australia

        Thanks hubber088

      • hubber088 profile image


        8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

        A lot of good info. Good hub!

      • Mel Jay profile imageAUTHOR

        Mel Jay 

        9 years ago from Australia

        Much appreciated toknowinfo! What I love the most about Sir Arthur is that he was a real dreamer - and he took the action to make his dreams come true. BTW I love your animal hubs - especially this one - . It really got me thinking about dog people I know and how there are some really famous dog people out there - It has become almost expected to see US Presidents with a dog, not to mention the Royal Family and the ever-present Corgis - Cheers - Mel

      • toknowinfo profile image


        9 years ago

        Thanks for the enlightenment about Sir Arthur Evans. He sounds like a brilliant man and certainly a pioneer. Well written and fascinating facts. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and useful.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)