Introduction | Arthur Evans | Archive | Collection | Digital Knossos

Digital Knossos: Digitizing Sir Arthur Evans’s Knossos Excavations

Plan of the Palace of Knossos.

The Ashmolean Museum houses the largest collection of Minoan antiquities outside Crete (around 5000 objects). These objects largely derive from the purchases of Arthur Evans (1851-1941) as Keeper of the Museum (1884-1908) and from his energetic fieldwork and scholarship, including his world-known excavations at the 'Palace of Minos' at Knossos (1900-1931). The archaeological material at the Ashmolean is further enhanced by the substantial body of documentation that Arthur Evans amassed during this time. More than 80% of the Sir Arthur Evans Archive is taken up by the Knossos excavation records – the most complete, comprehensive and diverse archival resource of its kind anywhere in the world from this early era of archaeological exploration in the East Mediterranean. These records are also the most important resource for re-contextualising and reinterpreting Evans's work at Knossos and are in constant demand and use by scholars and the general public alike.

In the last few years and following the completion of the Museum's redevelopment, it was decided to move forward more systematically with the digitization of our archival and object-based collections. With regard to the Knossos archive our aim was to develop an innovative approach that could help us document and harmonise data (especially of the work already completed in the last two decades by various scholars), collaborate with our sister institutions (the British School at Athens and the British Museum) and research and publish this rich resource online in order to make it accessible to scholars and the general public alike. This led to Digital Knossos – the digitization and virtual reconstruction of Arthur Evans's Knossos excavations.

It is our hope that Digital Knossos will be a ground-breaking project that will make archival and object-based collections easily accessible online in a fully integrated, searchable and expandable digital format, and enable these to be linked to other related but dispersed collections. Using Sir Arthur Evans's excavations at Knossos to demonstrate our approach, we will develop a dynamic online resource that contextualises archaeological information. The early methods and principles employed by Evans and his team were among the first to lay the foundations for theoretical and practical approaches of modern archaeology. As a result, Digital Knossos will generate and promote greater understanding of the archaeological process and underline the important role of archives in creating and curating knowledge through the study and interpretation of ancient remains. It offers a first rate opportunity to present Knossos – one of the earliest settlements in the Mediterranean with continuous habitation for at least 11000 years – as a laboratory for understanding the development of archaeology and more importantly of how we make sense and interpret the past. In this respect, Digital Knossos proposes to conduct archaeology in reverse.

Our ultimate aim is to create a dynamic, open-access resource which can be modified and used for other projects, e.g. for publishing and sharing online complex archaeological data. This website is the first, very small, step towards this direction.

Plan of the Palace of Knossos.