Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


24 November 2010

The new Aegean World gallery in the redeveloped Ashmolean Museum

Yannis Galanakis

The greatest University Museum in the world

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford is the world’s oldest institutional public museum. Since its official re-opening on 2 December 2009, it is also among the newest. Named after the famous antiquarian and polymath Elias Ashmole, the Museum opened for the first time on 21 May 1683 in a building specifically built for that purpose in Broad Street, where today the Museum of the History of Science of the University of Oxford is housed. The foundation collections were formed by John Tradescant, father and son, both royal gardeners, and first put on display in their house in London in the 1630s. ‘Those rarities and curiosities’ included a number of famous exhibits such as Powhatan’s ‘Mantle’ and a dodo from the island of Mauritius. These collections, focusing on natural history and ethnography, passed in 1659 by deed of gift to Ashmole, who in 1677 gave them to the University of Oxford.

The transference of a number of objects to the two newly founded museums in Oxford, the University (Natural History) Museum (1850; opened in 1860) and the Pitt Rivers (1884; opened in 1891), resulted in a brief identity crisis for the Ashmolean. When Arthur Evans was appointed Keeper of the Museum in 1884, he endorsed with great determination the vision of his predecessor, John Parker, making clear, already from his inaugural lecture, the direction that the Museum should follow: ‘we should have one institution at least, which as the home of archaeology in its widest extent, should be a refuge for neglected studies and forgotten arts. Such and no other is the place that I would claim for the Ashmolean Museum.’

Arthur Evans is considered the second founder of the Ashmolean along with C.D.E. Fortnum, one of the most determined of all benefactors. Evans not only transformed the archaeological collections of the Museum by acquiring more than 2,000 objects per year, but, perhaps more importantly, realized the need to display the collections under the best possible conditions. For this reason he decided to re-locate them from Broad Street to Beaumont Street, where the University (picture) Galleries were housed since 1845, in the neo-classical edifice built by C.R. Cockerell (a building influenced by his explorations in Greece).

The amalgamation of the two institutions in November 1908 led to the formation of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology as we know it today. It was exactly at the peak of his success that Evans decided to resign from the Ashmolean in order to focus on the publication of his Cretan researches and give way to the newly formed structure of the Museum. Today, the Ashmolean consists of five curatorial departments: Antiquities, Western Art, Eastern Art, the Heberden Coin Room and the Cast Gallery.

The recent redevelopment is the largest since Evans’s days. The new building behind Cockerell’s edifice, designed by Rick Mather Architects, comprises 39 galleries, offering 100% more display space, including four special exhibition rooms, an education centre, study and meeting rooms, a state-of-the-art conservation lab, offices, storage facilities, a new loading bay, and Oxford’s first rooftop restaurant. In total there are 67 galleries to explore, from prehistory to present day.

Entrance to the Museum is free.

Crossing cultures, crossing time

The Ashmolean’s special character stems from the fact that, on one hand, as a University Museum, it is used for study, teaching and research and, on the other, as a public space, it attracts a wider audience. It was felt appropriate, as part of the redevelopment, to have a new display strategy. Crossing Cultures, Crossing Time explores how people and their associated material culture were transformed through contacts. The interlinking of gallery spaces and the carefully constructed views and vistas on and between floors constitute the most powerful manifestation of this idea in the new Museum.

For example, on the Ancient World level (ground floor) one can move from the orientation gallery to the Ancient Near East and the Aegean World (two galleries also linked through a transparent display). From the Ancient Near East one can go to Ancient Cyprus and from there to Egypt. From Ancient Cyprus and the Aegean World one moves to Greece which is then linked to European Prehistory and Italy before Rome. Moving to the Roman Empire, a gallery takes the visitor from Roman Oxfordshire to Syria and Persia, thence to galleries displaying objects from India, China, Korea and Japan, completing a journey that covers a large part of the northern hemisphere.

The transparency of the different levels is achieved with the use of glass bridges and the combination of single and double height galleries that open on to the atrium and the great staircase. This transparency, as seen from the great staircase, also gives a sense of an archaeological excavation with every level acting, more or less, like a time capsule: starting with the thematic galleries on the lower ground, such as ‘Money’, ‘Textiles’, ‘Ark to Ashmolean’, ‘Conserving, Restoring and Exploring the Past’, to a more chronological arrangement as one moves up towards the top of the building from ancient to modern times — not unlike an archaeological trench.

You can download a floorplan of the Museum here.

The Aegean World

A few words on the history of the Aegean collections

'Arthur Evans Room'

Figure 1. The ‘Arthur Evans Room’ shortly before its closure to the public (summer 2005).

When Arthur Evans was appointed Keeper of the Ashmolean in 1884, the Museum had a handful of Aegean objects: only one gem, which was not yet recognized as coming from the Aegean Bronze Age and a few obsidian blades from Melos. Following Evans’s purchases, donations and gifts to the Museum from his travels and researches, including his 1941 bequest, the Ashmolean today houses the largest and finest Aegean collection outside Greece, comprising more than 10,000 objects. A number of celebrated Oxford individuals also contributed to the formation of this collection, most notably John Myres, first Wykeham Professor of Ancient History in Oxford, and David Hogarth, famous archaeologist, mentor of T.E. Lawrence, chief of the Arab Intelligence Bureau during WWI, and Evans’s successor at the Ashmolean. The British School of Archaeology at Athens and the National Archaeological Museum (Athens) are also among the major contributors to the Aegean collection in Oxford. What makes this collection stand out from any other collection of this kind outside Greece is that for most of the objects there is sufficient documentation (often detailed) regarding their archaeological provenance, allowing us to reconstruct their life-cycle; their ‘biographies’: from the time of excavation to their display in the gallery. For this reason, where possible and applicable, an effort has been made to contextualize the objects on display.

From their first display in 1894, Aegean objects started progressively to occupy a more prominent role in the Ashmolean’s displays not least because of Evans’s own interest in them and after 1900 in association with his systematic excavations at Knossos. Originally displayed amongst antiquities from Egypt, the Near East, Europe and England, the Aegean collections acquired a dedicated space, the ‘Minoan Room’, in 1937. This room was renamed in 1951 the ‘Arthur Evans Room’ to honour the man who was largely responsible for its formation (Figure 1). Several scholars rearranged the displays in the Arthur Evans Room to a smaller or larger extent, including William Brown, Sir John Boardman, Hector Catling, Michael Vickers, Ann Brown, and Susan Sherratt. This room along with the rest of the 1894 building and its subsequent extensions was demolished in 2005.

Main arrangement and display strategy

The Aegean World gallery

Figure 2. The Aegean World gallery as viewed from the main entrance.

The new gallery, now entitled The Aegean World, occupies an area of about 160 sq.m. It is equipped with 19 glass cases and two plinths (Figure 2). The walls are used for freestanding objects and information panels. On display are about 850 objects. Over a thousand more objects will be displayed in the numerous drawers available in this gallery, thus forming the Aegean teaching and reference collection of the University. The gallery focuses on the Bronze Age (3200-1100 BC), although Neolithic material is also on display, e.g. in the section on figurines, Neolithic Knossos, and in the drawers where a representative sample of Neolithic sherds from mainland Greece, especially Thessaly, will be on display.

There are three main areas in the gallery, primarily geographical but with underpinning chronological references: the Early Cyclades, Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece (Figure 3 & 4). Each area is colour-coded in an attempt to facilitate the visitor’s orientation: e.g. light blue is used as the background in the Early Cyclades, inspired by the Aegean Sea; red is used for Minoan Crete, from the red used in the frescoes; orange for Mycenaean Greece, representing its commonest attribute, the humble clay pot. In addition ten panels are located throughout the gallery enhancing the visitor’s experience: they provide brief information on a number of themes and are usually illustrated with a timeline, a map, pictures and related graphics. Throughout the Museum, an effort was made to break up information into many different levels: external and internal panels; stories and themes on the lecterns; labels; even online resources. It is hoped that this hierarchy of information will transform the visitor’s experience.

Panorama of the north wall
Figure 3. Panorama of the north wall: on view the two plinths and the Minoan and Psychro Cave cases. Arthur Evans’s portrait is visible to the right and the Priest-King replica to the left. The Early Cyclades displays are in light blue and the Mycenaean displays in orange.

Emphasis in the new gallery is placed on the formation and transformation of complex societies in this particular area of the Mediterranean. More importantly this gallery challenges the visitor to explore ‘how we know what we know’ about the Aegean Bronze Age. A large part of the Bronze Age can still be described as pre-historic and, given that the later readable sources, the Linear B tablets, are specialized bureaucratic documents, it can be argued that archaeology plays a fundamental role in shaping our understanding of the past for the larger part of this period. Given also the Museum’s strong association with Arthur Evans and his extremely influential role in shaping Minoan Crete, it was important for us to highlight the role of archaeologists and other related scholars in filtering and diluting what we know about the archaeology of the Aegean Bronze Age.

To illustrate this point we focus, for example, on the changing approaches and shifting attitudes to the aesthetics of Cycladic figurines from the early 19th century to present day. The role of collectors, the art market and looting is explored with reference to what we really know about Cycladic figurines. In the Minoan section we place emphasis on Evans’s reconstructions, both architectural and that of objects. Heavily restored objects, enhanced replicas, even forgeries, such as the boy-God, are on display throughout the gallery as reminders of a constructed past. They are juxtaposed with archival images showing the process of ‘reconstitution’ as Evans called his architectural reconstructions at and around the palace of Knossos. Romantic watercolour restorations of the various rooms of the palace, a replica of the Priest-King, a figure reconstructed from fragments to form Evans’s ideal ruler of Knossos, all reinforce this dream-notion of the Minoan past (Figure 4).

Panorama of the south wall
Figure 4. Panorama of the south wall: on view the Cycladic figurines case, the Arthur Evans story, the Priest-King replica and the seals display. The plinth on the left is dealing with Power in Death and the plinth on the right with Power in Life in Bronze Age Crete. The Mycenaean displays are visible to the right (in orange).

Pride of place amongst all this is reserved for the artwork showing part of the Room of the Throne at Knossos. The artwork juxtaposes E. Gilliéron the younger’s 1930 restoration of the north wall, still admired by thousands of visitors every year — the two griffins flanking the throne, shown in greyscale — with what Evans actually found in place: a palm tree springing from the throne, totally ignored in the 1930 restoration, here shown in colour. This artwork was made possible thanks to the archival material, such as excavation photos and drawings, from the Evans excavations at Knossos stored at the Ashmolean (Figure 11 & 12). A similar effect is achieved in the Mycenaean Greece section where archaeological images are juxtaposed with romantic restorations such as the de Jong drawing of the Pylos throne room.

It is hoped that the new display of the Aegean World gallery will introduce visitors to the intricacies of material culture, and in particular to the process of archaeological interpretation. One of the main aims of the new gallery is to help visitors engage more with the material culture and hopefully make archaeology and the work of archaeologists more accessible to the general audience; to inspire and spark in everyone a curiosity and enthusiasm for the intellectual richness of our Aegean collection at the Ashmolean.

Early Cyclades

The section on the Early Cyclades is divided into three main themes: Early Cyclades 3200-2100 BC, Phylakopi on Melos, 2200-1100 BC and the Cycladic figurines (Figure 5). Marble and clay vessels, copper and bronze tools and weapons, silver ornaments, a frying pan, obsidian blades, stone tools, mat or basket impressions, loomweights, the so-called ‘Kapros D assemblage’ and one of the four notorious lead boat models form the bulk of the material on display from the Early Cyclades. The emphasis here is on the development of seafaring, the procurement of raw materials and the circulation of ideas that kept life going and information flowing.

The material from Phylakopi on Melos is perhaps the most important assemblage of the Cycladic collection at the Ashmolean. It comes from the early British excavations at the site (1896-1899). Phylakopi, for several decades, was the type-site for Aegean chronology. In its different strata archaeologists found buried material from mainland Greece, Crete and the Cyclades allowing better chronological synchronisms across the Aegean. The distribution of obsidian (a hard volcanic glass used to make cutting tools) from Melos to nearby lands provides the earliest evidence for long distance contacts within the Aegean and the development of seafaring — as early as 10,000 BC, based on evidence from the Franchthi Cave in the Argolid.

The Early Cyclades displays The Cycladic figurines display
Figure 5. The Early Cyclades displays; in front (and slightly to the right) the freestanding case with some of the Cycladic ‘highlights’ of the Ashmolean collection. Figure 6. The Cycladic figurines display; on the panel a drawing by Thomas Burgon of a figurine from Syros (1809) is juxtaposed with a painting by Modigliani of J. Hébuterne (1918).

Almost 40 figurines are also on display in the Early Cyclades section: one of the ten largest in the world is displayed lying flat in its own case, since most of the Cycladic figurines cannot stand upright without support, while the most intriguing anthropomorphic beaker and sheep kernos are displayed in a freestanding case (Figure 5 & 6). A number of themes are explored including paint on Cycladic figurines and the role of women in early Cycladic societies — most of the figurines show nude female individuals at an early stage of pregnancy. The main group (displayed in a case 3m long) consists of marble figurines from the Cyclades, although examples from the Neolithic period and Western Anatolia are also displayed for comparative purposes.

Arthur Evans and Minoan Crete

Grigoris Antoniou

Figure 7. Tribute paid to the workers, such as Grigoris Antoniou seen here.

A number of personal stories are told in the new Aegean World gallery, some in more detail than others. The personalities discussed include Duncan Mackenzie, Piet de Jong, the Gilliérons, David Hogarth and Heinrich Schliemann. Tribute is also paid to the workers who played their own significant role in making archaeology happen, such as the ‘superman among foremen’, the Cypriot Gregoris Antoniou (Figure 7), while in the A.G. Leventis gallery of Ancient Cyprus the visitor can discover more on John Myres and his correspondence with Michael Ventris.

The personality that dominates the Aegean gallery is that of Arthur Evans (Figure 8). His official 1907 ‘Richmond portrait’ — the way he wanted to be remembered: a romantic doyen of archaeology — is juxtaposed with the cartoon drawn in 1924 by Piet de Jong — the way people actually saw him: as an energetic ‘monkey’ even at the age of 73 when the cartoon was drawn. A quotation from his half-sister, Joan Evans, provides a glimpse of his character with all the pros and cons, while a timeline informs the visitor about the most important events in Evans’s life. Next to the portrait of Evans is a case in which a clay rhyton from Palaikastro is displayed in front of an archival drawing showing the Cup-Bearer: the first Minoan on a fresco fragment to be discovered by Evans at Knossos. This case offers the opportunity to discuss various themes: from skeuomorphism and fresco restorations to textiles and the way seals (gems) were worn.

A tablecase accompanies the information panel: the story of Evans is broken down into three major periods, echoing his favourite tripartite system of Minoan chronology. The first period focuses on his work at the Ashmolean (1884-1908) and the Chester seal: a gem on which Evans first identified signs of a pre-alphabetic writing system. This seal is said to have sparked his interest in 1889 in ascertaining the existence of pre-alphabetic writing in the Aegean. Although Evans was looking for one script to prove his theory, he managed to identify three different systems of writing which he dubbed Cretan Hieroglyphic, Linear A and Linear B respectively. While in Athens in 1893, art dealers informed Evans that most of these gems came from the island of Crete and it was there that Evans made his most extraordinary discoveries. The second section of this display is appropriately dedicated to his travels and explorations on Crete (1894-1899).

The Arthur Evans story
Figure 8. The Arthur Evans story in the new Aegean World gallery at the Ashmolean.

The third part of this tablecase focuses on his Knossos excavations (1900-1935). Although neither the first modern excavator of Knossos (this title belongs to Minos Kalokairinos) nor the only one who had a special interest in the site — many were the suitors, amongst them Heinrich Schliemann — he was the only one to succeed in purchasing the entire land where the palace once stood and the first to thoroughly bring the ruins back to life. Despite several criticisms raised by modern archaeologists about the excavations at Knossos, including the fact that only one archaeologist, Evans’s chief collaborator Duncan Mackenzie, was responsible for supervising more than a hundred workmen and several different trenches simultaneously (!), the overall quality of archaeological documentation from Knossos is generally good, especially by the standards of the time. Evans involved in his work professional workers, artists, restorers, architects, conservators and photographers. His workforce comprised Christian and Muslim Cretans as well as women and children; a complicated task made possible through his determination, often stubbornness, and financial resources, most of which he inherited from his father, the famous prehistorian, Sir John Evans.

Next to the story of Evans are some romantic watercolour drawings of various rooms of the palace of Knossos along with the replica of the Priest-King, in one of its many versions. The drawings were used in the Palace of Minos, Evans’s monumental publication of his excavations at Knossos — though not an excavation account strictly speaking; rather a compendium on how Evans viewed the archaeology, history and art of Minoan Crete. The drawings were also used as blueprints for his restorations of various rooms at Knossos. The Priest-King, cherished by Evans as the ruler of Knossos, is now thought to represent another youthful figure, probably part of a procession perhaps in association with rites of passage taking place at the palace.

The seals display

Figure 9. The seals display.

A case with seals — the Ashmolean has more than 550 of these little Bronze Age Aegean gems — complements Evans’s story and quest for pre-alphabetic writing (Figure 9). The Ashmolean holds some of the finest examples, purchased by Evans from local owners and art dealers. These little gems were known locally as galopetres: charms/amulets that ensured the flow of milk to lactating mothers. The seals, given their small size and often intricate representations and colours, are accompanied by the Corpus der minoischen und mykenischen Siegel drawings so as to make them more accessible to the non-specialists. A family-friendly text provides, amongst others, information on the manufacturing of these gems.

The wall opposite the story of Arthur Evans is dominated by five large cases in a row (Figure 10). Four of them offer an overview of Minoan Crete from about 7000 to 1000 BC. Themes include the Knossos stratigraphy, warrior burials, arts and crafts and cult and ritual. Pottery, figurines, weapons, fresco fragments, metal and stone vessels all help to illustrate the archaeology and art of Bronze Age Crete. Although the bulk of the material on display comes from Knossos, other sites represented include, among others, Kato Zakros, Palaikastro, Pseira, Phaistos and Ayia Pelagia. The fifth case is dedicated to the Cave of Psychro in the Lasithi Plateau. Objects from this cave include stone and metal human and animal figurines, offering tables (one inscribed in Linear A), bronze tools, weapons and utensils, seals, jewellery, votive plaques and pottery fragments. This display also addresses attitudes to workers as well as excavation methods.

Figure 10. The Minoan displays in the new Aegean World gallery at the Ashmolean, starting from the left with the stratigraphy of Knossos and the earliest deposits.

In the middle of the gallery, between these five cases and the Evans story, are two plinths dedicated to Power in Minoan Crete. The east plinth focuses on Power in Death: different larnakes (coffins) are on display along with pottery found by Evans in the Knossos tombs. Labels help visitors familiarise themselves with the burial practices of the people at Knossos, especially during the later stages of the Late Bronze Age (1450-1200 BC). A tablecase displays jewellery worn in life and death and presents objects associated with craftsmanship, such as bronze tools used in building and agriculture and stone moulds for the production of ornaments.

Power in Life in Minoan Crete Artwork
Figure 11. The plinth dedicated to Power in Life in Minoan Crete. Figure 12. The artwork showing the reconstruction of E. Gilliéron the younger of the north wall of the Throne Room at Knossos (in greyscale), juxtaposed with the fragment found in situ in 1900 (here in colour).

The west plinth focuses on Power in Life (Figure 11): a tablecase looks at Aegean scripts and administration; this is also conveniently placed close to the Evans story and the seals display. Visitors are encouraged to read two Linear B tablets with the aid of graphics: a page-shaped tablet recording women workers and their children at the palace of Knossos, first interpreted by Evans as a list of ‘Royal concubines’, and a leaf-shaped tablet that records sheep herded at kutato, probably a coastal site in northern Crete. Clay sealings (seal impressions) are also on display in an attempt to illustrate the basic steps of administration on the island, especially around the period of the Linear B tablets, about 1375 BC. On the west plinth there is also the drain pipe from Knossos; the large pithos from one of the storerooms with a capacity of about 550 litres; the octopus jar with the six tentacles and the partial reconstruction of E. Gilliéron the younger of the north wall of the Throne Room at Knossos with two alabastra and a replica of the throne on display (Figure 12). The process of excavating, reconstructing and interpreting this particular room is narrated along the lecterns. The lectern at the front of the plinth tells the story of Evans’s reconstructions at Knossos by using archival photographs documenting the different stages of ‘reconstitution’.

Mycenaean Greece

The Mycenaean Greece section

Figure 13. The Mycenaean Greece section of the new Aegean World gallery at the Ashmolean (on the right the Schliemann story and at the back the Mycenaean pottery and figurines display).

In contrast to the policy of a number of museums outside Greece, we felt that replicas should be displayed not least because they played, and continue to play, a fundamental role in Oxford, in the teaching of students and visitors alike (Figure 13). At the same time, they have a value of their own being historical replicas commissioned by Evans from the Gilliérons, father and son (a pair of creative, Swiss-born artists). The replicas of the Mycenae shaft graves and other early Mycenaean tombs (such as the Vapheio and Dendra tholos tombs) help us introduce the visitor to this period and the systematic exploration of the Aegean’s pre-classical past following Schliemann’s tantalizing discoveries at sites such as Troy and Mycenae. Objects donated by Schliemann himself to the Ashmolean, for example from Troy, are also on display, some still bearing his original labels.

A wall case at the west end of the gallery provides a representative sample of Mycenaean pots, including the Kareas chamber tomb assemblage, a few clay figurines and the fox or swine rhyton, allegedly from Tiryns (Figure 14). A few Mycenaean pots from Rhodes, Athens and Aegina complete this display. Opposite the Schliemann story, there is a case focusing on contacts between the Aegean and the East Mediterranean during the Late Bronze Age (1600-1100 BC). This is a partially transparent case shared between the Aegean World and the Ancient Near East gallery. On two shelves and on a plinth we display Aegean and Aegeanizing pottery not found in the Aegean; Cypriot pottery not found in Cyprus; and Egyptianizing and Levantine vessels popular across the East Mediterranean and the Aegean, in an attempt to underline contacts across distant lands. The story of the Uluburun, the most famous of the Late Bronze Age shipwrecks, helps illustrate an example of these possible contacts. This display also provides links to other galleries such as Ancient Cyprus and Egypt. The highlight of this transparent display is the Maroni krater (on loan from the British Museum): a Mycenaean vessel decorated with a chariot frieze, originally made in the Argolid around 1300 BC and exported to Cyprus where it was found in a tomb near the village of Maroni.

Contacts in the East Mediterranean A World of Myths
Figure 14. The ‘Contacts in the East Mediterranean’ case in the new Aegean World gallery; one third of this case is transparent and shared with the Ancient Near East gallery. A distribution map brings to life the contacts across the East Mediterranean in the 2nd millennium BC. Figure 15. ‘A World of Myths?’ This is the panel which visitors confront when coming from the galleries of Ancient Cyprus and Greece; note Homer’s watermark inside the case (showing Homer’s Baiae bust from the British Museum) and a ‘frightened’ Picasso drawn as a Minotaur (courtesy of Benjamin Heine).

The final case is dedicated to the reception of Bronze Age Greece from antiquity to present day: the fascination of the public as well as the archaeological confusion sparked by epic tales, myths and legends and the attempt of various scholars, including Schliemann and Evans, to verify them (Figure 15). The myth of the half-man, half-bull monster (‘minotaur’) is also explored here along with the use of the past in forging and maintaining identities, both ancient and modern. Graphics illustrate the use of the Aegean Bronze Age in popular imagination, as a spectacle and as part of modern consumerism. A quotation by the eminent Aegean archaeologist O.T.P.K. Dickinson on the panel accompanying this case summarizes the underlying story of the display: ‘No epic is a realistic presentation of a society or age; it is a fantasy, but a fantasy in which . . . reality keeps breaking through’.

A companion guide for the Aegean World gallery is currently in preparation. We are also in the process of finalising the objects that will go in the drawers. One of the future extensions would be to add a case on Geometric Greece that will help to highlight the transition from the Aegean World gallery to the gallery of ‘Greece 600 BC to 100 AD’.

A few words on the A.J. Evans and J.L. Myres archives

Perhaps the single most important aspect of the Aegean collection at the Ashmolean is the archival documentation. The Knossos Excavation Archive along with other archival material today stored at the Ashmolean is the largest and most complete archaeological archive of its kind from that very early era of archaeological exploration in the Aegean. It comprises about 3,200 photographs (not including duplicates) in more than 40 albums, over 500 letters (not counting personal/family letters) in 12 folders, over 1,000 drawings (architectural; of frescoes and objects; reconstruction drawings), hundreds of newspaper cuttings in 10 albums, 57 excavation notebooks, 23 travel and sketch books (other than Knossos), Evans’s drafts, offprints, notes, thousands of pull-outs and duplicates.

The J.L. Myres Archive also contains a remarkable collection of letters and papers associated with the pre-decipherment phase of Linear B. Myres was the executor of Evans’s will. Among the things entrusted to him was the publication of the Linear B tablets from Knossos (Scripta Minoa II, published after Evans’s death in 1952). The correspondence in the Myres archive highlights his contribution to the decipherment of Linear B by creating a network of scholars. These scholars working in close collaboration paved the way for Michael Ventris’s brilliant decipherment in 1952. Apart from Ventris, this network of intelligent minds included Alice Kober and Emmett Bennett, pioneers in the study of this script. It is hoped that an exhibition in the near future will focus on this unique aspect of Linear B.

The Myres Archive will be incorporated in the Cyprus Digitization Project. The Digitization of the Arthur Evans Archive started a few years ago and it is hoped that it will be completed in the near future.



The Aegean World gallery, from its original design to its finalisation and installation, took about three years during which time many individuals contributed immensely to its materialization. The Aegean World Gallery was curated by Dr Yannis Galanakis and designed by Clare Flynn (3D design) and Junia Brown (2D design). The throne room artwork was painted by Matthew Potter. The objects were treated by Dana Norris, Liz Gardner, Nicky Lobaton and Elspeth Morgan (conservators). TGA associates and the Education department at the Ashmolean contributed to the overall planning and interpretation strategy. Metaphor had the overall design, Luxam and Kevan Shaw supervised lighting in the gallery and Meyvaert manufactured the cases. The Antiquities department (Susan Walker, Michael Vickers, Helen Whitehouse, Alison Roberts, Jack Green, David Berry, Helen Hovey and a number of volunteers and friends) provided an ideal and stimulating environment throughout the project’s period. The mountmakers (David Provan and Shelley Seston) and the technicians (Kieran Champion, Timothy Crowley, Kevin Jacques and Emma Denness) led by Vicky McGuinness helped install the objects in the gallery. Photography and the publications department helped significantly with archival images and the acquisition of new photographs.

Special thanks to Professor John Bennet and Dr Susan Sherratt for their constant support. Also to Helen Hughes-Brock, Professor Ingo Pini, Dr Lisa Bendall, Dr Peter Tomkins, Professor Peter Warren, Professor Cemal Pulak, and Lesley Fitton. Also Chronis Papanikolopoulos of INSTAP for his valuable and speedy help with the Psychro Cave photographs.

Museum’s facts and figures

  • Period of Construction: 2005-2009
  • Cost: £61 million
  • Area of new building: 10,000 sq.m.
  • Number of new galleries: 39, including four exhibition rooms about 440 sq.m. in total
  • The Ashmolean Team: departments of Antiquities, Western Art, Eastern Art, Heberden Coin Room, Cast gallery, Conservation, Design and Publications; Offices: Director, Events, Exhibitions, Finance, Registrar, Retrieval Team, Ashmolean Development Project, ICT, Documentation, Human Resources, Education Service, Joint Museums Education Team, Picture Library, Museum Shop, Photography, Front of House and Building Services
  • Architect: Rick Mather Architects
  • Structural Engineer: Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners
  • Exhibition Designer: Metaphor
  • Case Manufacturer: Meyvaert
  • Interpretation Consultants: Tim Gardom Associates, LTD
  • Mechanical Design: Atelier Ten
  • Project Manager: Mace
  • Construction: BAM
  • Financial Consultant: Gardiner & Theobald
  • Specialist Lighting Consultant: Luxam
  • Gallery Lighting: Kevan Shaw
  • Exhibition Cost Consultant: Greenway Associates

Photo credits

  • Figures 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14 & 15 (David Gowers, Ashmolean)
  • Figures 3, 4, 7, 8 & 12 (Yannis Galanakis, Ashmolean)

Further reading

Brown, A., 1983. Arthur Evans and the Palace of Minos, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum.

Brown, A., 1993. Before Knossos… Arthur Evans’s Travels in the Balkans and Crete, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum.

Brown, A. (ed.), 2001. Arthur Evans’s Travels in Crete, 1894-1899 (BAR International Series 1000), Oxford: Archaeopress.

Brown, C., 2009. Ashmolean: Britain’s First Museum, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum.

Hood, R., 1998. Faces of Archaeology in Greece. Caricatures by Piet de Jong, Oxford: Leopard’s Head Press.

Hughes-Brock, H., 2009. Corpus der minoischen und mykenischen Siegel VI (2 vols),Mainz: Philipp von Zabern.

Sherratt, S., 2000. Arthur Evans, Knossos and the Priest-King, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum.

Sherratt, S., 2000. Catalogue of Cycladic Antiquities in the Ashmolean Museum. The Captive Spirit (2 vols), Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Dr Yannis Galanakis, Sackler Junior Research Fellow (Worcester College, University of Oxford)
Curator for the Aegean Collections and the Arthur Evans Archive (Ashmolean Museum)
Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PH, UK.


Παρακαλούμε τα σχόλιά σας να είναι στα Ελληνικά (πάντα με ελληνικούς χαρακτήρες) ή στα Αγγλικά. Αποφύγετε τα κεφαλαία γράμματα. Ο Αιγεύς διατηρεί το δικαίωμα να διαγράφει εκτός θέματος, προσβλητικά, ανώνυμα σχόλια ή κείμενα σε greeklish.