Evans, Sir Arthur

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A British scholar and archaeologist who contributed much to the study of Greek archaeology with his excavations at the Minoan palace of Knossos. His first interest was in coins and hieroglyphic seals, and it was the latter which drew his attention to Crete. He began excavations at Knossos in 1899 at his own expense, and in the next 35 years laid bare not only this Bronze Age palace of the Minoans, but in effect their whole civilization. Careful cross-dating with Egypt allowed him to put dates to his sequence, making it a vitally important link in the dating of prehistoric Europe before the discovery of radiocarbon. Though he was unable to decipher the Minoans' three written scripts, his detailed study of them gave the necessary basis for later work, culminating in the reading of Linear B by Michael Ventris in 1952. He was largely responsible for demonstrating the existence of a pre-Mycenaean Aegean civilization, for naming it Minoan (after the legendary King Minos of Crete), and for revealing most of its characteristics. He was the son of Sir John Evans.