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Knossos archive was dated by Arthur Evans to the destruction by conflagration of about 1400 BC, which would have baked and preserved the clay tablets. He dated this event to the LM II period. This view stood until Carl Blegen excavated the site of ancient Pylos in 1939 and uncovered tablets inscribed in Linear B. They were fired in the conflagration that destroyed Pylos about 1200 BC, at the end of LHIIIB. With the decipherment of Linear B by Michael Ventris in 1952,[40] serious questions about Evans' date began to be considered. Most notably, Blegen said that the inscribed stirrup jars, which are oil flasks with stirrup-shaped handles, imported from Crete around 1200 were of the same type as those dated by Evans to the destruction of 1400. Blegen found a number of similarities between 1200 BC Pylos and 1400 BC Knossos and suggested the Knossian evidence be reexamined, as he was sure of the 1200 Pylian date.

The examination uncovered a number of difficulties. The Knossos tablets had been found at various locations in the palace. Evans had not kept exact records. Recourse was had to the day books of Evans' assistant, Duncan Mackenzie, who had conducted the day-to-day excavations. There were discrepancies between the notes in the day books and Evans' excavation reports. Moreover, the two men had disagreed over the location and strata of the tablets. The results of the reinvestigation were eventually published by Palmer and Boardman, On the Knossos Tablets.[41] It contains two works, Leonard Robert Palmer's The Find-Places of the Knossos Tablets and John Boardman's The Date of the Knossos Tablets, representing Blegen's and Evans' views respectively. Consequently, the dispute was known for a time as "the Palmer-Boardman dispute". There has been no generally accepted resolution to it yet.

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The major cities and palaces used Linear B for records of disbursements of goods. Wool, sheep, and grain were some common items, often given to groups of religious people and to groups of "men watching the coastline".

The tablets were kept in groups in baskets on shelves, judging by impressions left in the clay from the weaving of the baskets. When the buildings they were housed in were destroyed by fires, many of the tablets were fired.

Discovery and deciphermentDuncan Mackenzie, who had conducted the day-to-day excavations. There were discrepancies between the notes in the day books and Evans' excavation reports. Moreover, the two men had disagreed over the location and strata of the tablets. The results of the reinvestigation were eventually published by Palmer and Boardman, On the Knossos Tablets.[41] It contains two works, Leonard Robert Palmer's The Find-Places of the Knossos Tablets and John Boardman's The Date of the Knossos Tablets, representing Blegen's and Evans' views respectively. Consequently, the dispute was known for a time as "the Palmer-Boardman dispute". There has been no generally accepted resolution to it yet.

The major cities and palaces used Linear B for records of disbursements of goods. Wool, sheep, and grain were some common items, often given to groups of religious people and to groups of "men watching the coastline".

The tablets were kept in groups in baskets on shelves, judging by impressions left in the clay from the weaving of the baskets. When the buildings they were housed in were destroyed by fires, many of the tablets were fired.

The tablets were kept in groups in baskets on shelves, judging by impressions left in the clay from the weaving of the baskets. When the buildings they were housed in were destroyed by fires, many of the tablets were fired.

The British archaeologist Arthur Evans, keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, was presented by Greville Chester in 1886 with a sealstone from Crete engraved with a writing he took to be Mycenaean.[42] Heinrich Schliemann had encountered signs similar to these, but had never identified the signs clearly as writing, relating in his major work on Mycenae that "of combinations of signs resembling inscriptions I have hitherto only found three or four ...."[43] In 1893 Evans purchased more sealstones in Athens, verifying from the antiquarian dealers that the stones came from Crete. During the next year he noticed the script on other artefacts in the Ashmolean. In 1894 he embarked for Crete in search of the script. Soon after arrival, at Knossos he saw the sign of the double axe on an excavated wall, considering this the source of the script. Subsequently, he found more stones being worn by Cretan women as amulets called γαλόπετρες "milk-stones", coming from the various ruins.

Starting in 1894, Evans published his theories that the signs evidenced various phases in the development of a writing system in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, the first article being "Primitive Pictographs and a Prae-Phoenician Script from Crete".[44] In these articles Evans distinguished between "pictographic writing" and "a linear system of writing". He did not explicitly define these terms, causing some confusion among subsequent writers concerning what he meant, but in 1898 he wrote[45] "These linear forms indeed consist of simple geometrical figures which unlike the more complicated pictorial class were little susceptible to modification," and "That the linear or quasi-alphabetic signs ... were in the main ultimately derived from the rudely scratched line pictures belonging to the infancy of art can hardly be doubted."

Meanwhile, Evans began to negotiate for the land purchase of the Knossos site. He established the Cretan Exploration Fund, with only his own money at first, and by 1896 the fund had purchased one-fourth of Kephala Hill, on which the ruins were located, with first option to buy the rest. However, he could not obtain a firman excavation permit from the Ottoman government. He returned to Britain. In January 1897, the Christian population of Crete staged its final insurrection against the Ottoman Empire. The last Ottoman troops were ferried off the island by the British fleet on December 5, 1898.[46] In that year also, Evans and his friends returned to complete purchase of the site. By this time, the Fund had other contributors as well.[47] In 1899, the Constitution of a new Cretan Republic went into effect. Once Arthur had received permission to excavate from the local authorities, excavation on the hill began on 23 March 1900.

According to Evans' report to the British School at Athens for that year,[48] on April 5, the excavators discovered the first large cache ever of Linear B tablets among the remains of a wooden box in a disused terracotta bathtub. Subsequently, caches turned up at multiple locations, including the Room of the Chariot Tablets, where over 350 pieces from four boxes were found. The tablets were 4.5 cm (1.8 in) to 19.5 cm (7.7 in) long by 1.2 cm (0.47 in) to 7.2 cm (2.8 in) wide and were scored with horizontal li

Starting in 1894, Evans published his theories that the signs evidenced various phases in the development of a writing system in The Journal of Hellenic Studies, the first article being "Primitive Pictographs and a Prae-Phoenician Script from Crete".[44] In these articles Evans distinguished between "pictographic writing" and "a linear system of writing". He did not explicitly define these terms, causing some confusion among subsequent writers concerning what he meant, but in 1898 he wrote[45] "These linear forms indeed consist of simple geometrical figures which unlike the more complicated pictorial class were little susceptible to modification," and "That the linear or quasi-alphabetic signs ... were in the main ultimately derived from the rudely scratched line pictures belonging to the infancy of art can hardly be doubted."

Meanwhile, Evans began to negotiate for the land purchase of the Knossos site. He established the Cretan Exploration Fund, with only his own money at first, and by 1896 the fund had purchased one-fourth of Kephala Hill, on which the ruins were located, with first option to buy the rest. However, he could not obtain a firman excavation permit from the Ottoman government. He returned to Britain. In January 1897, the Christian population of Crete staged its final insurrection against the Ottoman Empire. The last Ottoman troops were ferried off the island by the British fleet on December 5, 1898.[46] In that year also, Evans and his friends returned to complete purchase of the site. By this time, the Fund had other contributors as well.[47] In 1899, the Constitution of a new Cretan Republic went into effect. Once Arthur had received permission to excavate from the local authorities, excavation on the hill began on 23 March 1900.

According to Evans' report to the British School at Athens for that year,[48] on April 5, the excavators discovered the first large cache ever of Linear B tablets among the remains of a wooden box in a disused terracotta bathtub. Subsequently, caches turned up at multiple locations, including the Room of the Chariot Tablets, where over 350 pieces from four boxes were found. The tablets were 4.5 cm (1.8 in) to 19.5 cm (7.7 in) long by 1.2 cm (0.47 in) to 7.2 cm (2.8 in) wide and were scored with horizontal lines over which text was written in about 70 characters. Even in this earliest excavation report, Evans could tell that "...a certain number of quasi-pictorial characters also occur which seem to have an ideographic or determinative meaning."[48]

The excavation was over for that year by June 2. Evans reported: "only a comparatively small proportion of the tablets were preserved in their entirety,"[48] the causes of destruction being rainfall through the roof of the storage room, crumbling of small pieces, and being thrown away by workmen who failed to identify them. A report on September 6 to the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland[49] began to use some of the concepts characteristic of Evans' later thought: "palace of Knossos" and "palace of Minos". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography, 1900,[50] notes that Evans took up Stillman's theme that the palace was the labyrinth of mythology in which the half-bovine son of King Minos lurked. In the report, the tablets are now called a "linear script" as opposed to the "hieroglyphic or conventionalized pictographic script". The linear script has characters that are "of a free, upright, European character" and "seem to have been for the most part syllabic". Evans reasserts the ideographic idea: "a certain number are unquestionably ideographic or determinative."

The years after 1900 were consumed by excavations at Knossos and the discovery and study by Evans of tablets, with a projected comprehensive work on Cretan scripts to be called Scripta Minoa. A year before the publication of volume I, he began to drop hints that he now believed the linear script was two scripts, to be presented in the forthcoming book.