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Minotaur: Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaelogy of the Minoan Myth Hardcover – August 3, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape; First Edition edition (August 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224043528
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224043526
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,385,039 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. 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 possibleDbut 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Mrs Alexandra L Lesk Blomerus on October 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Sandy MacGillivray's in depth analysis of the life and times of pioneer Cretan archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans was a pure joy to read. The author's own experiences as a professional in the field on Crete add great weight to his arguments as he finds himself coping the Evans' legacy on a daily basis. I really got the sense that the author knew Evans, both the man and the scholar, through close attention to and extensive research on the amply available primary sources. This is a wonderfully scholarly, yet very readable and highly interesting book to both the professional archaeologist and interested armchair amateur.
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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful By K. Kyros on August 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Minotaur by Joseph MacGillivray

This book presents itself as a readable biography of one the great Archaeologists, Sir Arthur Evans, instead of a thoughtful biography the book is really a prolonged attack on Evans (and 19th century archaeology) by an author of dubious credentials and makes for extremely painful reading.

The book is tolerable journalism when its sticks to the factual events, but it is so filled with hostility towards Evans, that the reader is quickly bogged down in a long winded and poorly researched series of ad hominen attacks and innuendo of wrong doing that the thrill of Crete and Minos is completely buried.

The central claim of this bad book is that Evans created Minoan archaeology and did not discover anything. The attacks are unrelenting. The author claims variously : Evans is unscientific and concerned only with objects, stole antquities, horded valuable linear B scripts, was a repressed homosexual, took too much credit for his finds and harmed nearly all of his colleagues, was shrewd and calculating to excess in his business dealings, was a racist because his disliked Turks and personally favored European and Greek religion and culture, was a spoiled wealthly aristocrat of no ability but gifted merely by birth and social standing- who also ate very well, etc etc etc

That the author has issues with Evans is an understatement and parrying all of his attacks (most of which are the authors own unsubstantiated suspicions or irelevant details) is a waste of time.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Cox on March 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
MacGillivray's study is a careful analysis of the work of Sir Arthur Evans. Done by an archologist who has spent many years on Crete digging into Minoan civilization, it is a solid piece that shows Evans as an upper-class Victorian who had the time and money to engage in on-going research on the island, but who was hampered by the preconceptions and scientific limitations of the period. It is an important work that shows the roots from which modern Mediterranean archeology has sprung.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. P. Birkett on September 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a biography of the excavator and controversial rebuilder of the alleged "Palace of Minos." The account of the findings and imaginative reconstructions at Knossos is long and detailed. For some readers that might be the primary interest of the book but for others it could get tedious. I'd recommend Chadwick's "Decipherment of Linear B" if you're only going to read one book about prehistoric Crete.
MacGillivray has interesting things to say about the role of archeology and philology in racism. The coda at the end brings us up to the decipherment of Linear B.
One gets the impression that the biographer does not like Arthur Evans very much. To some extent his achievements were the results of circumstances, and his reputation was inflated. He was a childless man of immense wealth, was waited on hand and foot by servants, and able to pursue whatever interested him. We almost feel jealous, but then there is the issue of his sexuality. The conflict between his impulses and his need for public approval must have been a torment. Cyril Connolly in "Enemies of Promise" suggested that homosexuality was a help to creativity because it stopped people from being encumbered by family obligations. MacGillivray also offers more Freudian explanations of the possible links between sex and archeology.
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