Digging Up the Past: Sir Arthur Evans and the Palace at Knossos

Digging Up the Past: Sir Arthur Evans and the Palace at Knossos
Frances Cleveland: Economics, Discovery and Daily Life

Skill: Middle School
Time Required: One-two weeks


In the first decade of the 20th century (1900-1910), Sir Arthur Evans, a British archaeologist, excavated the Palace of Knossos on the island of Crete.  In doing so, he created a major advance in our knowledge about ancient Greece in general, and the so-called Minoan-Crete civilization in particular.  Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston, whose second husband, Thomas Jex Preston, Jr. was a professor of art and archaeology, would have been extraordinarily interested in the work in Crete, which uncovered major examples of ancient art.


The purpose of this lesson is to acquaint students with the field of archaeology by inviting them to explore the excavations of the Palace of Knossos on the Island of Crete. In addition, students will gain experience in writing “news” articles and creating either a PowerPoint presentation or a simulated news broadcast.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Access to print materials Paper, pens or pencils, or word processors PowerPoint presentation program and/or video camera (optional)


1.  The class is turned into the newsroom of a television studio in 1910.  News of the completion of excavations of the Palace of Knossos in Crete has been received, and the station is doing a special broadcast on the work of Sir Arthur Evans and his colleagues.
2.  The task is to create the special broadcast, either with a PowerPoint presentation or a video production (or both!).  Topics (note: these are just some suggestions—there are many other topics that could profitably be done) that should be included are the following:

  • An introduction to the field of archeology
  • A biography of Arthur Evans
  • A biography of Harriet Boyd
  • The culture of Minoan-Crete
  • The actual excavation of the Palace of Knossos
  • The Myth of Knossos and King Minos
  • The End of Minoan civilization

3.  Students may approach the research in small groups if appropriate.  When the research is completed, the class should be re-grouped into production teams:

  • Sequencing the storyboard
  • Writing the script
  • Organizing maps and pictures
  • Making PowerPoint slides
  • Videography

4.  The lesson should be concluded by showing the final product to a selected audience (other students and teachers, parents, community members, etc.)

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended by including in the project other excavations in Greece, or, perhaps, other excavations.  It could also be extended with the study of famous archeologists.

Sources & Resources:

Caselli, Giovanni. In Search of Knossos : The quest for the Minotaur's labyrinth. New York; Peter Bedrick Books, 1999.
Scarre, Chris and Stefoff, Rebecca. The Palace of Minos at Knossos (Digging for the Past). New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Exploring Archaeology 

Sir Arthur Evans 

Sir Arthur Evans and the Excavation of the Palace at Knossos 

The Palace of Knossos 

Knossos and the Palaces of Crete 

History of Minoan Crete 

Minoan Civilization 

Maps of Ancient Crete 

This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.