Major Archaeological Discovery Palace of Knossos

About the major archaeological and linguistic discovery the Palace of Knosses which gave the language community linear a and b, history of the dig and discovery.


Year: 1900

Location: Near Heraklion on the island of Crete

Discoverer: Arthur Evans

Findings: Arthur Evans came to Crete with the intention of tracing the origins of Mycenaean art. Jewels from this culture had shown microscopic hieroglyphs similar to symbols scratched on sealstones indigenous to the island. Evans was extremely nearsighted, a condition that enabled him to study minuscule markings at very close range. Intrigued, however, by the imposing mound of Kephala, a few kilometers from Heraklion, he began to excavate instead. Before Evans had finished, 25 years later, he had resurrected one of the great marvels of antiquity--the palace of Knossos, center of the Minoan civilization.

The 5 1/2-acre excavation became a lifelong project. Evans used his vast personal fortune--nearly pound 260,000--to finance the dig. During his excavation, he found suggestions of the ancient Greek legend of Theseus and the half-man, half-bull Minotaur. Wall frescoes of bullfighting scenes came into view. Shields covered with hides were dug up. Ceremonial chambers appointed with bull horns and other bull-worshiping vessels were found. The palace itself was a huge labrinyth of narrow passageways and interconnected apartments, a maze through which Theseus, after slaying the fearsome creature, might well have wandered, guided by the slender thread given him by King Minos's daughter, Ariadne. The sprawling ruin contained not only a throne room but an immense wine and oil storage area with a capacity of more than 80,000 gallons.

In the restorative work, Arthur Evans faced an unusual dilemma. The palace of Knossos had crumbled around 1380 B.C., succumbing to one of the catastrophic earthquakes that devastate Crete three or four times each century. Much of the original limestone used for walls and columns had disintegrated from rain and sun. Timber beams and ceilings had likewise vanished. Evan's solution--the use of reinforced concrete to replace the missing members--made him a controversial figure. Some of his critics derisively said that he had produced a "concrete Crete." They further claimed that his inclination to recreate, employing his vivid imagination, made it virtually impossible to tell which portions of the restored Knossos were of genuine Minoan design.

His detractors cannot, however, overlook his discovery of three syllabic scripts written in two distinct hieroglyphic forms, which he christened Linear A and Linear B. Linear A, the earlier version, is still undeciphered. Linear B was solved by the shrewd deductions of Michael Ventris in 1952. Ventris proved to his skeptical colleagues that the markings were an early version of the Greek language. His conclusion, a direct consequence of Evan's work, showed that spoken Greek had been used by the ancient Cretans at least 600 years before the time of Homer.

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