“Went to Gortyna, Phaistos & Hagia Triada the sites of our digs. I like them much better than Cnossos, where there is too much Evans & too little Minos.”
Gilbert was not very interested in the prehistoric archaeology of the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures but was obliged as a student at the Italian School to visit the Italian excavations near the south coast of Crete. As the capital of the Roman province of Crete and Cyrenaica, Gortyna symbolised for Italians the ancient presence of the Roman Empire throughout the Mediterranean world, but Phaistos and Hagia Triada were Minoan Bronze Age remains, the former having the plan referred to as a “palace,” a series of rooms around a large open central courtyard.
When Arthur Evans excavated the site of Knossos, he discovered the very extensive remains of a large multi-storeyed structure around a central court, which he labelled a “palace.” He soon found a throne room with wall paintings, which needed sheltering, and a staircase descending several storeys down into the residential halls, which had collapsed and needed shoring up. By 1922, when Gilbert visited Knossos, Evans had reconstructed the Grand Staircase and a broad stairway starting to lead up to the next floor beside the Throne Room, at that time covered with a gabled roof. It was not yet, however, the elaborately rebuilt structure seen today. In the Candia (later Herakleion) Museum, many of the fresco fragments from Knossos had indeed been incorporated in heavily restored wall paintings.
By contrast, the Italians, lacking Evans’ personal resources, had done comparatively nothing to shelter the alabaster floor slabs in their excavated Minoan ruins at Phaistos and Hagia Triada and in 1907 the Italian anthropologist Angelo Mosso in The Palaces of Crete and their Builders predicted a lamentable state for their remains in the future.
It may be that Gilbert’s comment, if it refers just to the in situ remains at Knossos and not to the Museum, reflects the general attitude of the Italian archaeologists in 1922 to Evans’ work at Knossos.
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