Creating the first Europeans. Tracing the development of Sir Arthur Evans’s vision of Minoan civilisation through documents and objects

Renée Trepagnier (University of Bristol in partnership with the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

Supervised by Professor Nicoletta Momigliano and Dr. Shelley Hales (Bristol); Dr. Andrew Shapland and Dr. Eleanor Standley (Ashmolean, Oxford)

Renée has a BA in Classical Studies and a BS in Anthropology from Tulane University (Louisiana, USA) where she studied the role of gender and personhood in the mortuary landscapes of Bronze Age (Minoan) Crete. She completed her MPhil in Classical Archaeology at the University of Oxford with a dissertation which examined the role of the neighbouring buildings surrounding the Palace of Knossos and their relationship to the Palace through ceramic and small finds GIS analysis. 

Renée took part in two study seasons at Knossos as a research assistant working on legacy material from Sir Arthur Evans’s excavations at Knossos (The House of the Frescoes and the Northwest Treasure House). She has also worked on excavations at the Bronze Age site of Palaikastro in Crete and at Pompeii in Italy, and as an intern at several museums and heritage institutes, including the National Trust and Guildhall Art Gallery. She is currently a volunteer tour guide at the Ashmolean Museum. 

Renée’s CDP project focuses on the archaeological excavations, theories, and legacy of Sir Arthur Evans, who excavated and restored the Bronze Age (Minoan) architectural complex known as the Palace of Knossos on Crete from 1900-1930. In his publications, Evans used the evidence that he had gathered to present his vision of the Minoan civilisation as a proto-European society ruled by priest-kings. Renée uses the Evans Archive and Ashmolean collections to study the evolution of Evans’s theories from their archaeological context to their publication and exhibition to disentangle and distinguish Evans’s careful study of the archaeological contexts from his motivation to portray the Minoans as the first European civilisation.  

Renée is particularly interested in using the Evans Archive to study features of the Knossos landscape that have yet to be fully published, namely the buildings surrounding the Palace of Knossos. She will examine, for example, earthquake destructions as integral elements in Evans’s vision, particularly with reference to their archaeological identification and interpretation both within the Palace and in adjacent houses, and how Evans’s theories were shaped by his own experience with Cretan earthquakes. Renée will tie together the archival record (i.e., notebooks, photographs, architectural plans, and newspapers), the object collection at the Ashmolean, and Evans’s publications and exhibitions to begin a much-needed analysis of how modern Minoan archaeological interpretations are shaped by and entangled with the excavation history, museum display, and theories of Sir Arthur Evans.

Funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships (CDP) scheme.