The Discovery of Knossos by the Cretan Antiquarian Minos Kalokairinos - Politics and Research Agendas in the Early Days of Aegean Archaeology - by Ant. Kotsonas

The Discovery of Knossos
by the Cretan Antiquarian
Minos Kalokairinos

Politics and Research Agendas
in the Early Days
of Aegean Archaeology

By Antonis Kotsonas

Knossos in Crete is one of the most frequented archaeological sites in the world. Visitors to the prehistoric Palace of Knossos are greeted by a bronze bust of the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans who excavated, restored and interpreted the monument in the early 20th century, thus leaving us with an everlasting legacy on the archaeology of Crete and the Aegean. A few months ago, a second bust was erected near the first one and it shows the little-known Cretan businessman and antiquarian Minos Kalokairinos (1843-1907). Kalokairinos was the first to excavate Knossos more than two decades before Evans, and the first to discover its palace in a brief and poorly documented campaign in 1878. Although his work attracted international attention at the time, it was quickly overshadowed by the much more extensive and well-documented research of Evans and it remained entirely overlooked for nearly a century. However, recent scholarship increasingly appreciates the pioneering investigations of the Cretan antiquarian. My lecture draws from this scholarship and especially from the surviving manuscripts of Kalokairinos to document and evaluate his contribution in light of broader disciplinary and political history. I explore the academic and non-academic agendas that shaped the work of Kalokairinos and the ways in which this work relates to the discoveries of Heinrich Schliemann at Troy and Mycenae, and the later work of Evans at Knossos. I also discuss Kalokairinos's interpretation of the Palace of Knossos, his work on the topography of the Greek and Roman city, and his documentation of otherwise unknown or lost monuments, including some exported beyond the island, from Egypt to western Europe. The analysis evaluates the contribution of a pioneering antiquarian who was forgotten for too long, and it also sheds light on the politics and the research agendas that shaped the early days of the archaeology of Crete and the Aegean.


Antonis Kotsonas is Assistant Professor of Mediterranean History and Archaeology at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge, and a B.A. from the University of Crete.

His research focuses on the material culture and socio-economic history of Greece and the Mediterranean in the Early Iron Age and the Archaic period, though his research interests extend from the Late Bronze Age to the Roman period. He has conducted fieldwork and finds research on Crete, and in the Cyclades, Euboea, Macedonia and Latium; and comparative studies across the Aegean, and from Italy to Cyprus. His publications engage problems in state formation, trade and interaction, identity and commensality, memory, and the history of Greek and Mediterranean archaeology. He is the author of The Archaeology of Tomb A1K1 of Orthi Petra in Eleutherna (Athens 2008); co-author of Methone Pierias I: Inscriptions, Graffiti and Trademarks on Geometric and Archaic Pottery from the ‘Ypogeio’ of Methone Pierias in Macedonia (Thessaloniki 2012); the editor of Understanding Standardization and Variation in Mediterranean Ceramics: Mid 2nd to Late 1st Millennium BC (Leuven 2014); and co-editor of a Wiley Blackwell Companion to the Archaeology of Early Greece and the Mediterranean(Forthcoming). Also, he is Area Editor for the Wiley Encyclopedia of Ancient History.

Prior to joining NYU, Antonis Kotsonas was Assistant Professor at the University of Cincinnati, and Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Crete, and King’s College London. He also served as Curator at the Allard Pierson Museum Amsterdam. Kotsonas has held a Loeb Classical Library Foundation Fellowship (2017-2018), he has received the Rising Star Award from the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Cincinnati (2018), and he is the Visiting Professor of the Australian Archaeological Institute at Athens, which involves lecturing across Australia in summer 2018.

The reception following this lecture will celebrate recent publications by ISAW community members, including Antonis Kotsonas's book publication, A Companion to the Archaeology of Early Greece and the Mediterranean, co-editor, Irene S. Lemos (Wiley-Blackwell, October 2019).

ISAWTuesday, December 3 2019. ΑΡΧΕΙΟΝ ΠΟΛΙΤΙΣΜΟΥ, 3.12.2019.


ΛΕΞΕΙΣ: Κνωσος, Κρητη, προιστορικο ανακτορο, Βρετανος, Εβανς, Αιγαιο, Κρητικος, επιχειρηματιας, Καλοκαιρινος, παλατι, 1878, Κοτσωνας, Κοτσονας, Κνωσσος
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