Centre for Continuing Education

History Course: Sir Arthur Evans and His Quest for The Minoans

History. See the future. It’s in the past.

Join us for this history course as we explore the career of Sir Arthur Evans and his contributions to historical understandings of Crete in the Bronze Age. We will particularly investigate the perspectives of modern archaeologists and revisions of Evan’s legacy.

British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans is widely credited with the discovery of the Minoans of Bronze Age Crete, but some scholars would argue that Evans did not ‘discover’ the Minoans as ‘invent’ them. Evans had read about King Minos, the legendary ruler of Crete, and because he believed that myths might have some basis in fact, he went looking for the palace of King Minos. The subjects of this legendary king he named the Minoans. Everything Evans found he interpreted in terms of his own pre-conceived ideas about Minos and his happy and peaceful kingdom.

Evans’ interpretations have always been controversial, but by the 1980s many of his assumptions and theories were challenged by archaeologists. 21st century archaeologists, whilst acknowledging their debt to Evans, are re-interpreting, re-assessing and revising aspects of Evan’s legacy.

Join us across the ‘wine dark’ sea to Crete as we visit the palace of Knossos, rebuilt by Evans, and a wide range of other archaeological sites.


This aim of this course is to examine the career of Sir Arthur Evans and his contribution to historical understandings of Crete in the Bronze Age. We also aim to draw attention to the influences and interpretations of various historical perspectives.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • outline the two systems developed by Arthur Evans and Nikolaos Platon for dating the Minoans
  • identify the key features of Minoan architecture
  • demonstrate an awareness of the problems involved in the decipherment of the Minoan hieroglyphs and the two linear scripts
  • evaluate the evidence for Minoan control of the sea, culture contact and colonisation
  • interpret Minoan religious iconography used in painting
  • assess the significance and impact of Evan’s scholarship on archaeological and historical scholarship on the Bronze Age in Crete.


  • The evidence for the ruler(s) and palaces
  • The key features of Minoan palatial architecture
  • Minoan painted pottery – classification/dating of styles
  • Minoan technology – glassmaking and pottery, metallurgy
  • The evidence for trade and culture contact
  • Changing interpretations of religion and cult objects
  • Reassessment of the peace-loving Minoans and the warlike Mycenaeans

Intended audience

The course may be of interest to people with an interest in ancient history, and people who may be planning to travel to Crete and wish to visit the archaeological sites and museum with Minoan collections.



Delivery style

  • Sessions compromise a lecture segment and a group discussion segment
  • PowerPoint and video clips in the lecture segments
  • Discussion with interactive Q&A


Course notes including timelines and maps, plans of buildings and accounts of archaeological sites are provided electronically.

Recommended reading

The contrasting views of Evans to be found in these two books illustrate something of the nature of the debate about his achievement:

J. Alexander MacGillivray, 2000, Minotaur, Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology of the Minoan Myth, Jonathan Cape, London, UK.

Nanno Marinatos, 2020, Sir Arthur Evans and Minoan Crete. Creating the Vision of Knossos, Bloomsbury Academic, London, UK.

Further general reading:

Maria Andreadaki-Vlazaki et al (eds), 2008, From the Land of the Labyrinth. Minoan Crete, 3000–1100 B.C., 2 vols, Exhibition catalogue New York: Alexander S. Onassis Foundation.

Gerald Cadogan, 1976, Palaces of Minoan Crete, Barrie and Jenkins, London, UK.

Rodney Castleden, 1990, Minoans. Life in Bronze Age Crete, Routledge, London.

John C. McEnroe, 2010, Architecture of Minoan Crete. Constructing Identity in the Aegean Bronze Age, University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

We acknowledge the tradition of custodianship and law of the Country on which the University of Sydney campuses stand. We pay our respects to those who have cared and continue to care for the Country.