BOOK REVIEW: The Find of a Lifetime
By Sylvia L. Horwitz
This 2001 reprint of a 1981 reprint offers a biography of self-educated Victorian archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, who among other things, discovered the Palace of Knossos from Minoan times. If you remember your fables about the Minotaur in the labyrinth, Knossos was the place.
It is a favorable bio, though it certainly points out Evans’ quirks and Victorian mannerisms. It is also an impressive work, tracing the near-sighted adventurer who first became enamored of Balkan history and Slavic independence before pursuing his 50-year dig on Crete.
The son of a paper manufacturing magnate, he had little problem with funding his archaeological exploits. His tours in the Balkans, sometimes by himself and sometimes as a reporter for various London newspapers, carried him across Austrian, Turkish, and rebel lines where he was often arrested as a spy until released by British consulate efforts. Along the way he detailed the various wars and archaeological sites.
Later, he became enamored of Greece, following Suhliemann’s excavation of Troy but always wondering what came before the Trojans and Mycenaeans. Eventually, through guesswork and research, he settled on a spot on Crete. Within a week, he struck pay dirt. His meticulous and costly excavations and renovations unearthed treasures and unlocked the secrets of the Minoan civilization.
Horwitz’s prose blazes a trail as colorful as Evans’ personality. An itinerant traveler and amateur archaeologist herself, she brings such experience to the fore in tracing Evans’ meanderings.
The Find of a Lifetime is quite good and Phoenix deserves some credit for bringing this book back from oblivion.