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Raven Shaw

Sir Arthur Evans named the ancient civilization of Crete ‘Minoans’ after King Minos, but the original name of the culture is still unknown. Evans used modern materials to reconstruct parts of damaged buildings, making them less authentic and creating more work for future restorers. Evans also removed the restoration work of later Minoans on the Knossos Palace, stripping it back to an earlier version of the palace.

Evans hired a Swiss artist and his son to do reconstruction of fragmented Minoan art, but in some cases it’s hard to tell if they put images back together in the original way because the art has become like a jigsaw puzzle that has multiple ways to solve it. One image that has been proven to have been reconstructed inaccurately is “The Saffron Gatherer,’ an image of a boy that should have been a monkey. The artists may have improvised in some pieces, just to fill them out. They also copied art from other frescos to fill in missing pieces, and some of their restorations were influenced by modern beauty standards. The father and son produced some replicas that were easy to mistake for originals, because of their use of ancient manufacturing techniques and how they didn’t always put their maker’s stamp on them. Some scholars think they might have been creating and selling forgeries on the side, which would have muddied the waters further for people trying to study Minoan culture.

Evans gave names to artifacts that he discovered, and the names stuck despite how we never found out what the true purpose of them was — for instance the ‘Snake Goddess.’ The figurine was found with one arm holding a snake, and one arm missing. Evans reconstructed it with a second arm holding a snake, because he guessed it was probably right. He reconstructed the missing head based on frescos of Minoan women, and stuck a small cat he’d found in another room on top. Good enough for government.

Heinrich Schliemann was convinced that the city he’d found was one talked about in Homer’s writings, so he named a lot of the things he’d find in reference to Homer. The names stuck, despite being found to be inaccurate. An example is a gold king’s deathmask, which he named ‘the Mask of Agamemnon.’ Scholars now believe that Schliemann altered the mask to make it look more like what people of his time thought Agamennon looked like. He also named an impressive tomb the ‘Treasury of Atrius,’ after Agamemnon’s father.