Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


9 February 2016

The Cult of the Dead, Fetishism, and the Genesis of an Idea: Megalithic Monuments and the Tree and Pillar Cult of Arthur J. Evans

Deborah Harlan European Journal of Archaeology 14.1-2 (April 2011): 210-230


Arthur Evans is most noted for his work in Crete, particularly the excavation of the Palace of Knossos, which he began in the year 1900. As a consequence, Arthur Evans’ earlier archaeology is often overlooked. This paper focuses on a series of lectures, largely unpublished, on the development of megalithic monuments and the religious cult they embodied, delivered by Evans in 1885. Evans’ ideas of cult were embedded in contemporary late nineteenth century anthropological concepts set within an evolutionary context. This paper shows that these underlying ideas were also evident in Evans’ later writings on the Aegean: notably, the famous article on the Tree and Pillar Cult that formed the basis of his concept of Minoan religion. By contextualizing Evans’ early work, we gain a fuller understanding of why he prioritized certain information in constructing his concept of a Minoan civilization.



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