Aegeus Society For Aegean Prehistory


Wednesday 24 November 2010

Prolegomena to Aegean Archaeology; from the Renaissance until 1875

Nektarios Karadimas University of Bristol 2009 (29 July)

Prolegomena to Aegean Archaeology; from the Renaissance until 1875

Description: One volume, xxii & 479 pages, 201 b/w & colour figures, 20 tables, maps, 29,7x21 cm

Country: United Kingdom

Supervisor: Dr Nicoletta Momigliano

Examiners: Prof. Gerald Cadogan & Dr Silke Knippschild


This dissertation examines the foundations of what is now called ‘Aegean archaeology’ from the Renaissance until Heinrich Schliemann’s momentous discoveries at Mycenae in 1876. Although several books and chapters have been devoted to the history of Aegean prehistoric studies, most begin with either Schliemann’s excavations at Hisarlik and Mycenae or, in the case of Minoan archaeology, with Evans’s excavations at Knossos, thus implying that the period before the 1870s represents some kind of tabula rasa. Schliemann and Arthur Evans, who are usually regarded the ‘fathers’ of Mycenaean and Minoan archaeology respectively, may be the main discoverers of the material remains of ‘pre-classical’ Aegean civilisations, but their interpretations of these discoveries owe much to previous scholarship, although this has not been widely acknowledged. Moreover, even in terms of actual archaeological discoveries and general knowledge of prehistoric monuments and other finds, a great deal more was already known by the mid-late nineteenth century than is often recognised.

This dissertation aims to discuss systematically what was known about Aegean prehistory before Schliemann’s excavations at Troy and Mycenae, and effectively offers a ‘prequel’ to what have now become the standard histories of Aegean archaeology, e.g. W.A. McDonald’s Progress into the Past: The Rediscovery of Mycenaean Civilization (1967) and L. Fitton’s The Discovery of the Greek Bronze Age (1996). In particular, it discusses how scholars discovered and identified prehistoric sites, conducted the first prehistoric excavations, defined cultures, coined terms, and established relative and absolute chronological systems which inspired and informed late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Aegean scholarship. In doing so, it resurrects the work of relatively little known scholars in the field of Aegean prehistory, such as Jean-Baptiste Lechevalier, William Gell, Edward Dodwell, William Leake, Karl Müller, Karl Hoeck, Ludwig Ross, and George Finlay, and it assesses their importance in the development of Aegean studies, showing the intellectual debt that Aegean archaeologists such as Schliemann and Evans owed to previous research. Without detracting from Schliemann’s and Evans’s great achievements, this dissertation aims to show that the period before 1870s was no tabula rasa for Aegean prehistory, but an important and interesting phase, in which important discoveries and categorisations were also made, some of which continue to influence current scholarship.


List of figures [vi]

List of tables [xviii]

Preface and acknowledgements [xix]

  • Introduction [1]
  • ‘Armchair’ connoisseurs: Heroic, Homeric and Minoan Ages (fifteenth – mid nineteenth centuries AD) [7]

    • From the ‘Unknown Times’ to the ‘Homeric Age’: ancient and modern periodisations of Greek prehistory [8]
    • Reason and Myth: The ‘Göttingen School’ and the creation of the Minoan Age (1820-1830 AD) [32]
    • Grote and the rejection of Greek myths as historical sources [45]
    • Summary remarks and observations [47]
  • Pilgrims, humanists, Renaissance scholars and ‘travellers for curiosity’ (fifteenth century AD – 1780) [49]

    • Troy and the Troad [52]
    • Knossos and the Labyrinth of Minos [63]
    • The ‘Cyclopia’ near Palamidi [68]
    • Menelaus’s palace on Kythera [69]
    • The Cadmea and the Katavothra [69]
    • Mycenae, Tiryns and other Heroic sites and monuments described by Pausanias [70]
    • A Late Helladic/Mycenaean gold figurine [79]
    • Pasch van Krienen, Homer’s tomb and an early prehistoric excavation in the Aegean (1771) [79]
    • Summary remarks and observations [81]
  • Incunabula of Aegean archaeology and the ‘antiquarian impasse’ (1780 – 1832) [83]

    • The Heroic turn: The Count Choiseul-Gouffier and Jean-Jacques Barthélemy [88]
    • Ubi Troia fuit? Jean-Baptiste Lechevalier and the battle for the identification of Troy [94]
    • Louis François Sebastien Fauvel, ‘the modern Pausanias’ [111]
    • Travellers of the Grand Tour and the first Aegean archaeologists: William Gell, Edward Dodwell and William Leake (ca. 1790-1810) [117]
    • The troubled years of the Greek War of Independence: The Heroic work of the Expédition scientifique de Morée and other developments (1821-1832) [178]
    • The troubled years of the Greek War of Independence: The Heroic work of the Expédition scientifique de Morée and other developments (1821-1832) [178]
    • Summary remarks and observations [192]
  • The rise of Greek nationalism and new developments in Aegean archaeology (1833 – 1865) [195]

    • Frank Calvert, Johann Georg von Hahn and the search for Troy by means of excavations [197]
    • Bavarians, Greeks and the Heroic past of Greece [204]
    • Pottery and the concept of an ‘earliest’ or ‘primitive’ style [232]
    • Crete on foot: Robert Pashley’s and Thomas Spratt’s seminal research [240]
    • Summary remarks and observations [246]
  • From Antiquarianism to the introduction of modern evolutionary theories and methods (1866 – 1875) [249]

    • First steps towards an adoption of Thomsen’s Three Ages: Thera’s volcanic eruption, stone implements and Swiss lake dwellings (1866-1870) [251]
    • British consuls and their passion for archaeology: Charles Newton and the concept of a Graeco-Phoenician period; Alfred Biliotti and his excavations at Ialysos [267]
    • Schliemann and the rediscovery of Troy (1868-1875): From antiquarian to archaeologist? [273]
    • Summary remarks and observations [291]
  • Conclusions [297]
  • Appendices [309]

    • The term ‘Minoan’ from Antiquity until the end of 1904; a brief history [311]
    • From Buondelmonti to Schliemann: A catalogue of travellers, who visited Aegean prehistoric sites and monuments (1415-1868) [327]
    • A catalogue of travellers who visited the ‘Gortyn Labyrinth’ from 1415 until 1875 [339]
    • A catalogue of maps of the Troad published or completed during the period 1791-1868 [341]
    • A catalogue of Aegean prehistoric excavations from 1770 until 1875 [349]
    • An anthology of documents concerning Aegean archaeology from the fifteenth century AD until 1875 [355]

Bibliography [425]


Read the Introduction

Read the Conclusions

Read the Appendix 8.1

Read the Appendix 8.2


Nektarios Karadimas, Aegeus – Society of Aegean Prehistory, 6 Litous, 15124 Maroussi, Athens, Greece, n.karadimas[at]


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