knossos between fantasy and reality
The ancient palace of Knossos must be one of the most popular archaeological sites of Greece, as it is estimated that two to three thousand tourists visit the site daily during the summer.
This "tourism industry" that has evolved around Knossos is based on the great historic and archaeological significance of the area on one hand, but also on the extensive reconstruction of the palace by archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans who tried to materialize the picture he had formed in his mind, about the world of Minos and Ariadne.
The reconstruction helps the visitor to travel back through the tunnel of time, but brings forth the issue of how accurate and scientifically safe can this voyage be.
Where can we set the limits between what was actually unearthed and what was a new creation through reconstruction?
Dr. Kostis Hristakis professor of Prehistoric Archaeology in Bristol University answers these questions.
When I first visited the ancient palace of Knossos I was left with the lingering question:
How much of what I saw really existed in the past, and how much was the creation of someone’s imagination?
Your question troubles almost every visitor of the ancient palace.
It is a very difficult issue because the available information is not enough to let us form an accurate picture based on the diggings, and to determine how much of the reconstruction is based in real facts.
It is therefore very difficult to differentiate between ancient realities and creative imagination, something that Evans possessed in abundance.
Certain representations of course seem valid, and we should not forget that were created through the input of experienced architects, but others – and I refer to the Northern Entrance of the palace as a characteristic case – are seriously problematic since they are pure creations of imagination.
Nevertheless I think that even these kind of representations helped in a way, not only in the conservation of very important parts of the palace,
but also in the visitor’s understanding of the palace, something that would not be possible otherwise.
I would not totally disagree with your point of view;
it is true that reconstruction played a vital role in the preservation of many important parts of the palace.
To make this clear we can compare the well-preserved roof protected part of the West Storing Areas and the tragic preservation condition of the part that is not roof protected.
In the first part you think you can hear the steps of the Minoan man that filled the big storing vessels with the produce of Cretan soil, for the latter you can only feel sad.
These reconstructions though – and this is I think the essence of the problem – created a picture that froze through the passing of time and represents Evans’s vision on Knossos and not exactly what Knossos was in reality.
Unfortunately this is a vision made of concrete, with an abundance of Art Deco and Art Nouveau architectural elements, and sadly cannot be reversed.
Evans imposed a certain aesthetic that influenced, and continues to influence a lot of archaeologists, so it is very difficult to get away from it.
He denied us the opportunity to approach the palace from a different viewpoint, and to form our own personal opinion on it...
from STIGMES Magazine by Riki Matalliotaki