Travels in Crete 3: religious sanctuaries

YEP, BACK IN CRETE. So this is a sort of pictorial view of what we have been seeing and what may be worth a visit if you are in this ‘neck of the woods’ some day. Followers will recall my trips to Crete in previous posts (May 30, 2014 and April 11, 2015). Most of our visitations have been to Bronze Age Minoan sites but this time we decided to be different, mainly because we had already bored our companions, Lawrence and Jackie, with Minoan sites on previous visits.

First there was the 13th century (AD) church of Panagia Kera. This means the virgin (Panagia or Panayia) of Kera and is just off the main road to Kritsa (near Agios Nikolias) It’s not much to look at from the outside but it is covered almost entirely inside with some amazing 13th century frescoes. It is a domed three-aisled church dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin and dates to the early Venetian occupation.

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Panagia Kera – not much to look at from the outside …….

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But inside …… 13th century fresco of the Last Supper

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St George slaying the dragon

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Apostles

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The donor of the frescoes, Yeorgios Mazizanis, and his wife and child (without head)

We then headed up a very long and winding road (cue for song) off the main road just west of Gournia to the Phaneromeni Monastery. This is an austere monastic building (almost a fortress) on a rock edge with fantastic sea views. The site dates back to the Second Byzantine period (around the 12th century AD) but the actual date of the present building is unsure – but rebuilt in 1885.

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Monastery of Phaneromeni

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Inner courtyard of monastery

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On top of the monastery with the church built into the rock face (me, with back to camera, looking into the courtyard below)

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View from the monastery looking west towards Agios Nikolaos

The next trip was to another monastery, this time to the west near Sitia – the Toplou Monastery, aka the Monastery of Pangia Akrotiriani. It gets its Toplou name from the Turkish word ‘top’ meaning ‘cannonball’ as the Turks had seen a cannon there which had been provided by the Venetians for the defence of the monastery. This really was a fortress building but its date of construction is also unknown.  It may go back to the early 15th century but it appears to have been rebuilt after 1498 to defend against the Turks, particularly the Turkish pirate, Khayr ad-Din Barbarossa, aka ‘Redbeard’  (1474–1518). It was damaged by an earthquake in 1612 but repaired shortly afterwards by its Abbot, Gabriel Pantogalos, with funds from devout Christians and the Cretan historian, Andreas Cornaros. It is not entirely clear whether this was just a restoration to its pre-earthquake form or a complete rebuild from the foundations. The museum at the monastery houses some very early icons (religious paintings), books, manuscripts and engravings.

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The Toplou ‘fortress’ Monastery

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The courtyard inside the monastery – don’t you just love that long thin cactus on the left going up to the roof!

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Entrance to inner courtyard (not so tall cactus on right) – looking through the door to the inner courtyard you can see a plaque (with 3 holes in it) on the wall of the church – this gives details of the Arbitration of Magnesia (132 BC) referring to an alliance between Itanos and Ierapetra and was found by Robert Pashley (see blog post January 31) in 1834 being used as an altar in the Venetian church of Timios Stavros across the road from Toplou

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The monastery has its own windmill 

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The museum containing many early icons and books – church in the background (not my photo – I took this from the internet as you are not allowed to take photos in the museum – I don’t know who took this one!)

Okay, we did go and see one Minoan site – the house at Chamaizi. This is quite unique as it is the only known Minoan building with circular walls. It dates to Middle Minoan IA (c 2100-1900 BC) and is situated on a hill with great views for a ‘look-out’ post just west of Sitia. The complex has a paved entrance to the south and the rooms are set around a small courtyard with a raised well or cistern.

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Plan of Chamaizi (courtyard marked 12; well marked 12a; room with shrine marked 4)

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Walls of Chamaizi

Finally, having dropped Lawrence and Jackie off at the airport at Heraklion (Iraklio) for their return to UK, Sarah and I ventured southwards through Knossos towards Archanes (Arhanes). I was determined to find the spot where General Kreipe was kidnapped by a British and Cretan force in 1944 – see blog post September 6, 2014, Ill Met by Moonlight. Well, it wasn’t difficult. In 1944 it was at a point where the Epano Archanes road meets the Knossos road (south of Knossos) and today there is a large modern roundabout at that point and a large monument on the side of the road marking the spot.

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Map (see Stanley Moss’ map in Ill Met by Moonlight post) 

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The monument marking the kidnapping spot (I’m in the pic for scale)

Oh, and very finally, as Followers will know, we cannot leave a blog post on Crete without the rising of the full moon pic from Taverna Koxilia in Mochlos:

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Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have discovered another volume of Artemus’ notebooks (followers will recall Dr Artemus Smith was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction). Here is another extract:

A crafty old colleague of mine, Jeremiah Brainstormer, had been a retired farmer for a long time, became very bored and decided to open a medical clinic.  He put a sign up outside that said: “Jeremiah’s clinic – Trouble with taste, memory or sight? Get your treatment for £50 – if not cured, get back £100.”

A young student of mine, Sebastian Littlewaller, was positive that Jeremiah didn’t know anything about medicine and thought this would be a great opportunity to get £100. So he went to Jeremiah’s clinic. This is what transpired:

Sebastian:  “Jeremiah, I have lost all taste in my mouth, can you please help me?”
Jeremiah:  “Nurse, please bring medicine from box 22 and put 3 drops in the patient’s mouth.”   This the nurse did.
Sebastian:  “Aaagh !! – that’s PETROL”
Jeremiah: “Congratulations!  You’ve got your taste back. That will be £50 please.”

Sebastian  gets annoyed and goes back after a couple of days figuring to recover his money.
Sebastian:  “I have lost my memory; I cannot remember anything.”
Jeremiah:  “Nurse, please bring medicine from box 22 and put 3 drops in the patient’s mouth.”
Sebastian   “Oh no you don’t – that’s PETROL”
Jeremiah:  “Congratulations!  You’ve got your memory back. That will be £50 please.”

Sebastian leaves angrily and comes back after several more days.
Sebastian:  “My eyesight has become weak –  I can hardly see!”
Jeremiah: “Well, I don’t have any medicine for that so here’s your £100.”   But Jeremiah only gives him £10.                                                                                                                                                                 Sebastian : “But this is only £10.”
Jeremiah:  “Congratulations!  You’ve got your vision back.  That will be £50 please.”

There’s a moral to this story. I’m not sure what it is but probably something to do with youngsters not messing with crafty old men!

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17th century British Travellers to Crete

I have introduced you to some early British travellers to Crete (Spratt and Pashey in the 19th century, Pococke in the 18th century – see January posts) but now let’s go back even further to the 17th century and give you a taster of a couple of others.

 

William Lithgow (1582-1645)

Although the son of a wealthy burgess and educated at Lanark grammar school, Lithgow was not destined to be a scholar. Possibly to escape the ill-treatment by his brothers, he chose to travel and earn a living from his writings. He visited Crete in 1609 and recorded his travels in his Painefull Peregrinations (1632) but his tales and experiences on the island are mainly of woe. On his very first day he was robbed and nearly killed; he then rescued a French slave only to be chased and nearly slain by the slave’s ‘owners’; he was nearly bitten by three snakes having been led to believe that no such venomous reptiles could live on the island; and was to be the near-victim of an Englishman’s desire for the revenge of his brother killed at the hands of a Scotsman (Lithgow was a Scot). His action-filled narrative is somewhat exaggerated at times and it is never very clear which incidents, if any, are actually invented.

William Lithgow, by Hector Gavin, circa 1800 - NPG D28046 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

Lithgow dressed as a Turk whilst at ‘Troy’ (well, Old Illium)

He was disappointed with Greece having believed it to be a land of heroes now subdued by the Ottoman Turks and the same could apply to his view of Crete. He commented (keeping his early spelling):

“In all this countrey of Greece I could finde nothing to answer the famous relations, given by auncient Authors, of the excellency of the land, but the name onely; the barbarousnesse of Turkes and Time, having defaced all the Monuments of Antiquity: No shew of honour, no habitation of men in an honest fashion, nor possessours of the Countrey in a Principality. But rather prisoners shut up in prisons, or addicted slaves to cruell and tyrannicall Maisters.”

Title page to his 1632 book

If you go back to one of my June posts, you’ll see my reference to the labyrinth at Gortyns. Lithgow was there and he saw the entrance into ‘the labyrinth of Daedalus’ but did not venture into the cavern: “… I would gladly have better viewed, but because we had no candle-light we durst not enter, for there are many hollow places within it. So that if a man stumble or fall he can hardly be rescued.” He positioned it “on a face of a little hill, joining with Mount Ida, having many doors and pillars.” This must have been the site at Gortyns which is in the south east foothills of the Mount Ida range.

Lithgow and his attendant

In his Travelers to an Antique Land (1993), Robert Eisner said of Lithgow’s writing, “he does not, as they say in creative-writing curricula, bring scenes alive, but instead summarizes, ignores the particulars of the ruins he visits, generalizes, adds historical commentary, and then digresses.” In fact, his description of his fifty-eight days, travelling four hundred miles, is exceedingly brief and uninformative as far as any information regarding the island historically. His work was entertaining but not offering much to the learned traveller. But there we go, can’t all be perfect.

 

George Sandys (1578-1644)

Son of an Archbishop of York, Sandys was educated at Oxford as a gentleman of the University at the age of 11 in 1589, entering St Mary’s Hall but soon after transferring to Corpus Christi. He ‘grew into a gentleman famed for his learning in Classics and foreign languages.’ He was, as were several of his brothers and cousins, admitted to membership of Middle Temple (see one of my December posts) but he was not Called to the Bar as a barrister. Then, he would have had to have trained as a clerk for seven years but it appeared that he left after about a year to marry Elizabeth Norton. His uncle, Myles Sandys, was Treasurer of Middle Temple from 1588-1595. He travelled to Crete two years after Lithgow, in 1611.

                                                                                     George Sandys

R.B. Davis (George Sandys, poet-adventurer: a study in Anglo-American culture in the seventeenth century, 1955) was of the opinion that Sandys did not actually visit Crete, “the ship did not put into any port on Crete, though Sandys does describe country dancing on the island as though he had seen it.” Davis possibly took this view because Sandys’ brief but stylistic report on the island made several references to ancient sources but no mention of visiting any sites or actually landing on the island. Sandys said he was “Much becalmed, and not seldom crossed by contrary winds … until we approached the South-east of Candy, called formerly Creta.”

Replica of 17th century Dutch East India Company ship – in search of Crete(?)

However, Sandys must have gone the island as, in his book,  A Relation of a Journey Begun An. Dom 1610 … etc (1615), he described certain specific areas, such as Mount Ida and Gortyns and its labyrinth. He visited the labyrinth in 1611 but was a little vague as to whether it was actually at Knossos or Gortyns, although his reference to Ida would imply Gortyns as (as mentioned above) the latter is in the foothills of the former:

“For between where once stood Gortina and Gnossos at the foot of Ida, under the ground are many Meanders hewn out of rock turning this way & now that way … But by most this is thought to have been a quarry where they had the stone that built both Gnossos and Gortina being forced to leave such walls for the support of the roof, and by following of the veines to make it so intricate.”

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Entrance to Gortyns Labyrinth around the 18th/19th century

Warren believed that Sandys was the first investigator of the cave when he remarked, “Sandys appears as the first British traveller actually to enter the Labyrinth.” Warren obviously didn’t count Lithgow’s visit in 1609 as he didn’t go into the cave (and rightly so – can’t get credit for doing things by halves).

Sandys’ references to other sites are rather limited and Warren’s comment of Sandys leaving a “full description of Crete in his book of 1615, packed with Classical scholarship and ancient history …” is somewhat of an exaggeration. He was certainly interested in Classical literature, having translated Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Book One of Virgil’s Aeneid, but of his travels, generally, he had little to say of antiquities, being more interested in mythology.

Mythology of Theseus and the Minotaur in the Cretan labyrinth

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Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I have now come to the end of my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is the last extract:

I was obliged to write a reference for a member of my archaeological unit.  It read as follows:

 

Casper Dempsey-Smythe can always be found

hard at work. He works independently, without

wasting the unit’s time talking to colleagues. He never

thinks twice about assisting a fellow employee, and always

finishes given assignments on time. Often he takes extended

measures to complete his work, sometimes skipping coffee

breaks. He is a dedicated individual who has absolutely no

vanity in spite of his high accomplishments and profound

knowledge in his field. I firmly recommend that he be

promoted to executive field officer, and a proposal will be

executed as soon as possible.

 

Addendum: The darn fool was standing over my shoulder whilst I wrote this reference, which I sent to you earlier today. Kindly re-read it, referring only to the odd numbered lines.

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Travels in Crete 2: Bramber Tours

I FEAR the weekend interlude into historical trivia has, this week, been interrupted by my expedition to Crete. On such visits Sarah and I sometimes conduct a ‘Bramber Tours’ (that’s what we call it) of a small portion of the island on behalf of whoever comes to join us – in this instance, John and Mavis. Our visitation was for ten days of which John & Mavis were with us for eight. We collected them from the airport at Heraklion and proceeded to the well-trawled Minoan site of Knossos (check out previous posts in June). The Bronze Age ‘palace’ of Knossos (c 1700-1450 BC) is situated just south of the airport and so is, of course, an essential first trip as it is probably the most famous site on the island (well, it is if you are interested in ancient history and/or archaeology). For April the weather was very agreeable, the sun revealing itself without interruption.

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Knossos in the Central Court – the buildings are nearly all Sir Arthur Evans’ reconstructions – to the left, the cult rooms (front walls are genuine Minoan); in the centre, Evans’ staircase to his speculative first floor; and to the right (ground floor), the Throne Room

The ‘Bramber Tours’ itinerary for the week consisted of just three trips including the one to Knossos and two from Mochlos, the small village where we all stay (see end of May post last year – the part 1 of ‘Travels in Crete’). The other two visitations were focused on such places tourists are less likely to visit – for reasons, usually, of their obscurity.

The first of these was the Richtis Waterfall. An impressive natural location if you can ever find it. The journey took us eastwards from Mochlos to Exo Mouliana. Here we turned off the village at a sign ‘Richtis Beach’ (which you can only see coming from the other direction!) and drove down hairpin bends (John referred to it as a white-knuckle ride ….. but I knew what I was doing!!).  After about 15 minutes we came to the beach – we ignored that (it’s nothing very much) and turned right into a car park area for the waterfall (although you wouldn’t know it was for the waterfall). Some common sense has to prevail to follow an ‘almost’ obvious path to the waterfall. It took us up and down a rocky terrain, through woodland, occasionally crossing very narrow but shallow parts of the river itself – so it is useful to wear shoes/sandals that you don’t mind getting wet. The excursion through the ‘enchanted forest’  took about 40-45 minutes but depends upon how fast you are proceeding of course. The end result, when the waterfall reveals itself, is worth the effort. We concluded the day, still in glorious sunshine, with a beer or two back in Mochlos at Taverna Kochylia (see, again, end of May post last year).

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Richtis Waterfall (some 30 m in height)

The next trip was up into the mountains from Karvousi, just west of Mochlos. Further hairpin bends were are encountered but the ‘road’ (you can just about call it that) is not too bad and, after turning left at the first fork, it leads to the 3000 year old olive tree of Vouves. This tree dates back to the Minoans and is still going strong. It cannot be exactly dated by radioisotopes because its heartwood (naturally occurring chemical transformation …. oh, look it up) has been lost over the years but has been roughly dated by its size and general annual ring growth. This makes it approximately 2000 years but scientists from the University of Crete date it around 4000 years old (well, better for tourism). Anyway, let’s split the difference at 3000 years (which seems to be the general consensus of opinion).  In 2009 it was declared a protected natural monument and was classed as ‘monumental’ by the Association of Cretan Olive Municipalities due to the large size of its trunk. The trunk has a perimeter of 12.5 m (41 ft) and a diameter of 4.6 m (15 ft).

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‘3000’ year old olive tree 

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Different view of  ‘3000’ year old olive tree (not my photo but gives you a better idea of scale)

Part of this same trip was the Late Minoan IIIC site of Vronda (okay, that’s four trips in all). We returned to the fork (mentioned above), and took the right turn and on up into the mountain. The Minoans headed into the hills after the invasion of the Mycenaeans from mainland Greece around 1450 BC and this is one such site in which they settled. It is interesting to wonder how they actually got there as it’s hard enough by car! The rocky ‘road’ (you can hardly call it that now) is a somewhat difficult terrain to travel. I recall the last time I did it was in a four-wheel drive jeep – much more sensible than a Toyota saloon weighed down by four people. To make matters worse I missed the site and carried on up the ‘road’ that became less and less agreeable. Realising my error it was time to turn back. Well, that was easier said than done on this narrow track. Fortunately I found a small inlet to enable me to carry out the manoeuvre but not before all three of my passengers decided to exit the vehicle and volunteer to walk back down the rubbled pathway to the sought-after Minoan settlement.

Most of Vronda is very late Minoan, 1200-1025 BC (the ‘IIIC’ part of Late Minoan above) and has a fair share of hearth and oven occupied buildings and several small tholos tombs (see those of Mycenae in one of last July’s post). The pattern of buildings suggests the nuclear family as a basic social unit with each family cooking and eating together in large rooms. So now you know.

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      Vronda – large building with hearth in the middle 

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 Vronda tholos tomb entrance (centre) with lintel above

The day was completed with a visit to the Tholos beach down from Kavousi so John could go for a swim before embarking back to Mochlos and Taverna Kochylia for another beer or two (sound familiar?).

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Tholos beach, Kavousi

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From Mochlos – I forget which evening this was but the full moon delighted us by rising up from behind the hills 

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Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

I decided to introduce a very good friend of mine to my wife the other day and so took him home, unannounced, for dinner at 6:30 pm, after work.
My wife was not impressed. She screamed her head off while my friend sat open-mouthed and listened to the tirade which (cutting it a little short) went a follows  ….

“My hair and makeup are not done.  The house is a mess and the dishes are still in the sink.  Can’t you see I’m still in my pajamas and I certainly can’t be bothered with cooking tonight!  Why the heck did you bring him home unannounced you darned fool?”

I replied with the truth, “Because he’s thinking of getting married.”

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Thomas Spratt – antiquarian traveller to Crete

LAST WEEK I introduced you to Robert Pashley who had been sent to investigate antiquities in Crete by Francis Beaufort in 1834. On Pashley’s return to England, Beaufort was worried how to replace him. On the 1st October 1834, he wrote to Richard Copeland, who commanded the ship, HMS Beacon, on which Pashley had travelled to Crete, saying:

“My endeavours to get a proper person to succeed Mr Pashley have not yet succeeded – but I trust that before Spring you will be joined with some one with equal zeal and learning – I do not believe it would be easy to find anyone who could exceed Mr P in these qualities.”

Well, he had to wait awhile (17 years in fact) but that replacement came in the guise of Thomas Able Brimage Spratt who was a Royal Naval hydrographer. In the introduction of his book, Travels and Researches in Crete (1865), he commented that he was there to survey but also to collect reliable information regarding ancient cities, many of which were yet undiscovered and this would be of importance to the island’s geography and topography. As with Pashley, I’m just going to reveal interesting correspondence and ancillary facts around his travels; if you want more, read my book Dawn of Discovery (or check one of my blogs in June which featured Spratt in Crete, ‘The island that tipped’).

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 Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt RN (1811-1888)

Last week I made mention of one Lt Thomas Graves surveying in the Mediterranean (Beaufort had written to him about Pashley). Well, Graves’ midshipman on that trip was none other than Thomas Spratt. In fact, in 1836, Spratt was appointed to HMS Beacon, under Graves, the very same ship that Pashley had sailed to Crete on under Richard Copeland two years before (small world, eh?).

Spratt’s relationship with Francis Beaufort did not run smoothly at first as Spratt, when back in England, obviously failed to attend Beaufort with a report of Graves’ activities in the Mediterranean. Beaufort wrote to Graves (19th January 1848):

“Sir, I hoped that ‘ere this Spratt would have made an appearance in this room, and have furnished me with matter about which I should have to write to you – that not being the case I have only to express a hope that he will bring me a large harvest of your usually excellent work.”

However, he must have impressed Beaufort somewhere along the line as, in May 1851, he was sent to Malta and given command of his own ship, the paddle steamer HMS Spitfire, with instructions to continue Graves’ survey of Crete. Beaufort wrote to him confirming his daily (diem) pay (12th May 1851):

“With reference to the future survey pay of yourself and assistant surveyors, I hereby authorise you to draw on the Accountant General the undermentioned sums, to commence from the date of your arrival at Malta

Cmmdr TAB Spratt – 20s per diem   [£365 a year]

Lieut AL Mansell –  8/   – do –   [£146 a year]

Mr John Stokes – Master –  5/   – do –   [£91.25 a year]

GB Wilkinson – Mids –  5/    – do –   [£91.25 a year]”

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HMS Spitfire in foreground in Crimea War 1854 (my thanks to Steve Thorp for this)

From Malta, on the 30th May 1851, Graves reported (without punctuation) Spratt’s arrival to Beaufort adding his disapproval of the Spitfire and general conditions (in a later letter Graves referred to the ship as HMS Spiteful):

“Spratt has arrived with his staff but as he has I know reported progress I will say nothing more about his establishment to whom I will give every assistance and information in my power than that his “Spitfire” is the worst miserable time out I ever beheld and that with all my love for hydrographical pursuits I am only too glad to be clear of and unconnected with the petty economy and annoyances surveyors are now subject to.”

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‘Minoan’ seal-stones found by Spratt in Crete between 1851-3 – some 40 years before Arthur Evans found similar Cretan seal-stones in Athens which led him on his quest and discovery of ancient Minoan Crete

On 7th July 1851, Beaufort instructed to Spratt to proceed to Crete to search out antiquities, he reminded him to read Pashley’s book:

“I have no doubt you will rapidly go on – but not too rapidly to do full justice to your work. I am a great admirer of zealous & eager workman, but still more [admiration] of those who leave nothing for subsequent workman to glean … Do not forget all I said to you about variations on shore & on board – Pick up inscriptions and antiquities – Read Mr Pashley as you go along the coast …”

On the 4th December 1851, Beaufort wrote to Pashley sending him a copy of a letter from Spratt reporting on Crete and asked what Spratt should look out for on the island. Beaufort then wrote to Spratt on the 19th December, not really giving Pashley much time to respond, saying, “I sent your letter of Oct 15 to Mr Pashley who is I suppose out of town as he has not replied nor returned it [Spratt’s letter].” In the end Pashley did not reply until 20th May the following year which clearly upset Beaufort as he wrote to Spratt on the 8th June 1852, “I have just retrieved from Mr Pashley’s hand your letter of Oct but without any remarks wh[ich] could be of use to you or wh[ich] cd[could] alone to me for the wanton rudeness of not answering my note for 6 months …”. What Beaufort failed to mention to Spratt was that Pashley did say in his reply (to Beaufort, 20th May), albeit somewhat late, that his papers had been destroyed by fire in Inner Temple (Pashley was a barrister – remember?).

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Ancient sites visited by Spratt in Crete

Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to refer to what Spratt saw in Crete, but just one exception – mainly because I’ve mentioned it before (another blog in June ‘The Labyrinth of Crete’). Spratt visited the labyrinth near Gortyns in 1843, during his first trip to the island. We know this because in true schoolboy fashion he ‘graffitied’ his name on the cave wall.

graffitiSpratt’s graffiti in the labyrinth: T Spratt, HMS Beacon, 1843

On his second visit(1851) he went in search of what he actually believed might have been the ‘mythical’ labyrinth of King Minos. He looked to the ridge on the east side of the Makryteichos (Makriteikron/Makroteikho) village, over the rivulet of the Kairatos river just east of Knossos, and reported:

“… that [Makryteichos hills] is said by the natives to be the entrance to extensive catacombs, which, however, have become choked up by falling in of its sides, and cannot be explored … This entrance to the supposed Labyrinth or Catacombs of Gnossos has the same character as that of the entrance to the Labyrinth of Gortyna, excepting that the Gnossian excavations have been used as sepulchres, but whether originally or subsequently to Minos cannot be determined so as to identify it as the true Labyrinth, of which the tradition only existed for twenty-five centuries.”

It is not entirely clear what he was looking at but it is most likely the ‘labyrinthian’ tomb in the Mavro Spilio (black cave) cemetery, Tomb IX.

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Tomb IX, Mavro Spilio cemetry

Spratt remained in Crete on the second visit from 1851 to summer of 1853 when he was recalled to take part in the Crimean War. He returned to Crete on HMS Medina to complete his investigations in July 1859.

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Spratt’s drawing of the Hellenistic (4th century BC) bridge at Eleutherna, Crete

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The bridge today (well, 2007) – the circular arch drawn by Spratt has been filled in (to the left) – the tree is still there and growing! (I put these pictures in as a matter of triumph because I set out to find this bridge in summer 2006 but didn’t succeed until summer 2007 – now, through much woodland, it’s a long way from anywhere and in the middle of nowhere)

Oh, just one more exception of what Spratt saw in Crete – the ‘bema’ at Phalasarna, on the west coast. Not quite sure what it is but it’s just outside the harbour area, so perhaps a guard post. Immediately below is a photo of what it looks like now; below that is Pashley’s drawing of it; and below that is Spratt’s drawing of it. I include these because Spratt’s comment of Pashley’s effort amuses me. He said, “‘Pashley’s drawing was not a true representation of what it was like”. Well, I’m no art critique but what do you think?

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The bema (scale: about 1.5m high)

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Pashley’s drawing of it

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Spratt’s drawing of it ….. more of a true representation?!!

Finally, Sir Roderick Murchison, in an address to the Royal Geographical Society, said of Spratt’s book on his travels in Crete:

The Travels and Researches in the Island of Crete by Captain T.A.B. Spratt, RN., is a work which will rivet the attention and enrich the minds of various readers, whether they be antiquaries and scholars, or geographers and men of the sciences … for here we see produced by one of them [Royal Naval surveyors] a masterly illustration of the physical geography, geology, archaeology, natural history, and scenery of the diversified Island of Crete.”

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Sir Roderick Murchison (1792-1871)

 

Postscript 1: I came across an article written in Lippincott’s Magazine in 1878 by E.S., an otherwise unnamed English naval officer, regarding his journey from Crete to Smyrna and Ephesus. It is not known whether Spratt had read this but he was certainly alive when it was written so it is possible. If he had it would have been interesting to have witnessed his reaction to the officer’s comment albeit of Roman Ephesus:

“It is rather a difficult thing to acknowledge, in face of the great ruins then about us, with all their associations, that the thought of our dinner was by this time uppermost in the minds of nearly all our company. I have generally found, however, in much journeying about this wicked world, the condescension and interest with which one looks upon ancient remains depends very much upon the company in which one finds one’s self, the state of the weather and the state of one’s stomach.”

 

Postscript 2: I received an email from a chap who had found my work on Spratt via the internet. He was over from Australia for a year and studying at Oxford University. I got in touch with him and we meet up in Oxford in November 2010. His name was Michael Spratt, great great grandson of Thomas. More recently Steve Thorp contacted me (also from Aus) and referred me to the above pic of the Spitfire and informed me that his ‘many greats grandfather’ was Spratt’s 1st Lieutenant in the Crimea (great stuff the internet!).

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 Me and Michael Spratt (right)

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Next week: Wolf Hall, Anne Bolelyn and all that


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

I always remember my first day at my new office at the University. I sat there with absolutely nothing to occupy my time. There was a knock at my door. “Enter” I said, and I grabbed the telephone and began speaking into it to pretend to my visitor I was a busy and important man. As I spoke into the phone I beckoned the visitor to sit and he did so. I continued my conversational charade over the phone for a couple of minutes ‘discussing’ a fictitious oncoming project. When I had decided I had suitably impressed my visitor with this fake conversation, I put the telephone down, greeted him, and enquired as to the purpose of his visit.   He replied in a casual manner, “I’ve come to connect your phone.”

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Robert Pashley – antiquarian traveller to Crete

ROBERT PASHLEY (1805-1859) was a barrister of Lincoln’s Inn and Inner Temple but became an intrepid traveller of Crete in 1834. This is not a ‘blow by blow’ account of his travels around the island (you can find that in my book Dawn of Discovery), but more of a look at how Pashley came to be there and the supporting correspondence.

In saying that, I would just mention that one of the most interesting places he encountered was the Melidoni (Melidhoni) cave wherein a room which he discovered was named after him (see pics further below). During the 1824 Revolution against the Turks, following a three month siege of the cave, some 250 unarmed villagers, including women and children, were suffocated when the entrance was sealed and fires, lit by the Turks, thrown in to the cave. It was not until Pashley visited the cave in 1834, did Manolis Kirmizakis, the only survivor of the events, inspect it and discover the bones of the martyrs. They were put in a large sarcophagus which is in the cave today and defines the independent Cretan character. Later finds in the cave gave evidence to its usage for worship by the ‘Minoans’ of Bronze Age Crete (2100-1600 BC – see my very last paragraph below).

I’ve not been able to find an image of Pashley but below could be a sketch of him from his own book, Travels in Crete (1837), most likely by his companion and illustrator, Antonio Schranz, but not acknowledged.

pashPossibly Pashley (on the right)

Despite the work of Richard Pococke (see last blog), prior to Pashley, Crete had no known ancient historical ancestry and the historian, Sir Moses Finley, said of Pashley:

“The first important breakthrough [in Crete] was made in 1834 by a young man from Trinity College, Cambridge, named Robert Pashley … he joined that remarkable constellation of nineteenth-century British explorers and archaeologists who were opening up vast new and exotic fields of inquiry … a modern expert could say of his seven-odd months work [in Crete] that Pashley identified most of the important sites with accuracy which had never before been attained and has in few cases since been challenged.”

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Sir Moses Finley (1912-1986)

The Royal Naval hydrographer, Captain (later Rear Admiral) Francis Beaufort (of the ‘Beaufort Scale’) was keen to investigate the ancient antiquities of the Aegean and was fully supportive of any persons wishing to join a ship for the purpose of antiquarian research. It was Beaufort who proposed Pashley for such a venture in Crete.

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Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857)

On the 18th July 1832, Beaufort wrote to Captain Richard Copeland of HMS Beacon, prior to the latter’s departure for a hydrographic survey of the eastern Mediterranean, enquiring:

“Would you like to have a classical traveller in the Beacon to hunt for antiquities while engaged on the coast of Asia Minor? I have no one in my eye nor do I know whether their Lordships [at the Admiralty] would permit it but before I ask them or enquire at the universities I wished to ascertain your candid opinion of the utility of the scheme, and still more your personal feeling about it.”

Copeland obviously agreed as Beaufort wrote to him again (26th July 1832), “I am much pleased that you approve of the idea of having a savant to accompany to you.” In fact Pashley was not Beaufort’s first choice as he added in his letter to Copeland, “… and I will take care that none but a 1st rate man, and gentleman, [be] sent out. There is somewhere in Italy the son of the Master of Trinity College Camb[ridge] who I understand would likely to jump at such an offer.”  The man he had in mind was the son of Christopher Wordsworth brother of the poet). It is not clear which son, John, Charles or Christopher Jr., he was thinking of but none of them did ‘jump at such an offer’. (As the letter was written in July 1832, Beaufort was most likely referring to Christopher Jr as he was in Greece between 1832-33, whereas John and Charles did not travel to Europe until 1833).

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Christopher Wordsworth Jr (1807-1885)

Sir John Barrow, Second Secretary of the Admiralty, wrote to Pashley in December 1832 informing him that their Lordships of the Admiralty had approved him to investigate “the antiquities, the geology and the botany at the parts of the Coast of Asia Minor and Greece on which he [Copeland] may be employed surveying.” The Admiralty obviously got the idea that Pashley was a geologist or naturalist from Beaufort who was covering his options. Beaufort informed Copeland of Pashley’s appointment (17th December 1832):

“I have at last the great pleasure of introducing Mr Pashley to you – he is a Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge – not only a distinguished scholar, but imbued with a proper zeal for antiquity hunting. That zeal will I am quite sure meet with every possible encouragement and assistance at your hands … and the important aid you will derive from the company of such a person on the interesting service in which you are engaged” (my italics – see next paragraph).

The ‘antiquity hunting’ is a clear reference to the intention of seeking antiquities. The ‘important aid’, as Beaufort told Pashley (17th December 1832), would be the “determining of the ancient names and places as may be included in his Survey.”  This was Beaufort’s excuse for the usefulness of Pashley’s attendance. The ‘interesting service’ is possibly a reference to Beaufort’s own frustration at failing to secure antiquities on his own visit to the Mediterranean as he commented to Pashley (17th December 1832), “… as I well recollect the provoking opportunities I lost on the coast of Asia Minor, and the feebleness of  my last efforts to rescue a few vestiges of ancient geography from oblivion.”

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Entrance to Melidoni cave when I was there in 2006 (pigeon on step gives an idea of scale….)

According to Beaufort, in a letter to Lt Thomas Graves (surveying in the Mediterranean) (also 17th December 1832), Copeland “welcomed a classical scholar Robert Pashley of Cambridge to help him identify ancient sites [in the Aegean].”

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Plan of Melidoni cave (room discovered by Pashley on right [9] – now closed off)

Pashley set out on his extensive exploration of antiquities on the island of Crete with the aid of Captain Manias (a guide from Sfakia in the southwest of Crete), Antonio Schranz (an illustrator) and a mule. He was very enthusiastic about the early undiscovered history of Crete and shortly after his arrival on the island he wrote to Beaufort (15th February 1834):

“I believe we know but little indeed in England of the value and capabilities of this island. I must say a word of its history, which is so very interesting from the earliest dawn of Grecian civilization down to the present hour. You know how it is connected with many of the ancient theogonies & myths with the origin of laws, of the fine & useful arts, in fact with everything of any importance in the progress of society before the wars of Troy.”

However, his search for ancient cities was not an easy task and he remarked in his book (above), “Crete has been so little explored that it was necessary to enquire everywhere for ancient ruins.” He reported back to Beaufort on his findings of ancient sites with mixed feelings as he did not always find sites where he had anticipated them to be from references to his maps but was pleased with what he had seen (3rd April 1834):

“I have visited the sites of nearly twenty ancient cities, most of which I am sorry to say are either not placed at all or are placed entirely out of their proper places in all the maps I have seen. Many of the remains are extensive, most of them interesting, & some are very singular… I consider the two months I have spent here as more profitability employed as worth more in every point of view than all the rest of my eastern travels.”

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Drawing of Melidoni cave by Schranz from Pashley’s book

When he had completed his travels he was convinced that he had seen nearly all the cities of ancient Crete and informed Beaufort accordingly (9th October 1834), “… as for Crete, you will find … that I have visited most of the ancient sites.” That was quite correct as there were many more awaiting discovery.

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Melidoni cave (with the sarcophagus containing the bones of the 250 who died in 1824) 

Of Pashley’s venture, the historian Llewellyn Smith rather short-sightedly wrote in 1973, “A large part of his book is wasted in speculation about topography of the ancient Cretan cities: a fashionable game at the time, but exceedingly boring for the reader today.” No pleasing some people. Although he did add, “Skip the topography, for the rest is pure gold.”

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Ancient sites visited by Pashley in Crete

As a final word on Pashley, in his work on Edward Lear in 1995, Peter Levi commented, “Crete was more or less unexcavated until Sir Arthur Evans’ dig at Knossos in 1900, though its innumerable ancient sites were charted by Pashley.” So Pashley had discovered Minoan Crete before Evans who happily received the credit for it – okay he did good work at Knossos.

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Next week: I’m on a roll now – Thomas Spratt RN, another antiquarian traveller to Crete (if you have been paying attention you will have met Spratt before – a June blog, ‘Crete: the island that tipped’)


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

My good friend and mentor, Idley Blanchwater, had farmed all his life and was a great amateur archaeologist. Now, at the age of 98, he was sadly departing from us. His son and I were at his bedside shortly before his demise. To make his last journey more comfortable his son tried giving him warm milk to drink. “It’s from one of your own cows, father,” his son said. But Idley refused it. With a wink, the son gave the glass to his father’s nurse and she took it to the kitchen and poured a generous amount of whisky into the warm milk and returned with it insisting Idley try a little. So persuaded, he took a sip – then drank the whole glass – and his eyes brightened.

His son took this as a good opportunity to ask him for some final words of wisdom before he passed away. Idley raised himself up in bed on one elbow, looked at his son and said,

“Don’t sell that cow.”

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Richard Pococke – antiquarian traveller to Crete

IF YOU HAVE been reading my past bogs you will realize that one of my passions is Crete. I’m also interested in the early travellers to the island and what they found there before archaeological became ‘fashionable’ following Sir Arthur Evans’ excavations at Knossos in the early 1900s. Most of these early pioneers were either members of the clergy, the legal profession or the military,  maybe because they had nothing better to do (but let’s not go there). Anyway, I like to bring some of these fellows to the fore as I fear their names have been lost in the passages of time (see my books, In Search of Agamemnon and Dawn of Discovery on MY PUBLICATIONS on this blog – go on, buy one, you know you want to …..).

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Click here                                                             Click here

One such traveller was Richard Pococke. He was a member of the clergy and he visited Crete in 1739. Archaeology was not ‘something’ one did in the 18th century but Pococke was in search of ancient cities. He was, perhaps, the first British/Irish travel to the island to consider the existence of an ancient civilization. I was looking to see if he had found anything of the Bronze Age – then not a term used – before Arthur Evans’ great discoveries.

 pococke 2Richard Pococke (1704-1765)

There have been certain interesting views of Pococke. He was believed to be a man of “mild manners and primitive simplicity … In his carriage and deportment he seemed to have contracted something of the Arab character [see pic below], yet there was no austerity in his silence, and though his air was solemn, his temper was serene” (Cumberland, from Kemp, 1887, Tours in Scotland, 1747, 1750, 1760, Edinburgh University Press).

In 1761, a Mrs Delaney described Pococke as “the dullest man that ever travelled …” (Quane, 1950, ‘Pococke School, Kilkenny’ Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland). This may have been because he had no time for small talk or tittle-tattle at her tea parties (‘woman scorned’ …..). Whatever her view, Pococke was certainly not dull with regard to his travels. Kemp, the 19th century biographer of Pococke’s tour of Scotland (above), reported that “His [Pococke’s] contemporary, Bishop Forbes, has preserved a pen-picture of Dr Pococke … and represents him rather as a pleasant, genial, jocular man, able to adapt himself to every circumstance and society – qualities essential to travel.”

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Pococke in his ‘Arab’ attire

On arriving in Khania (Canea) on the northwest coast of Crete he called upon the “only English house on the island” – that of the English Consul General. With the Consul and the Bishop of Kisamos, he set off to see the sites on the western part of the island. His first encounter with the ancients was on Cape Spada at Dictynnaeon but the first ancient remains seen by him at Magnia were small and of marble, possibly of the Dictynnaeon Temple mentioned by Strabo (Geography, 10.12).

 pococke 8Ancient sites visited by Pococke in Crete

Pococke found a ruined city at Aptera (Palicastro), some five miles from the port of Kisamos. He wrote to his mother on 29th September 1739 about Palicastro:

“Came near to the sea west of Cape Spada … and went south west about 4 miles to Palaio Castro, the old ruined city of Aptera on a high hill, at the foot of which, the muses and the sirens had a trial of musick & the sirens being vanquished lost their wings. We viewed the Antiquities.”

This reference to the ‘trial by musick’ relates to the mythological tale of the victory of the Muses over the Sirens following a musical contest which took place at the city and after which the Sirens plucked off their feathers in sorrow and threw themselves into the sea – Aptera is Greek for ‘Featherless’. The antiquities he viewed included a very antique bas relief (a sepulchral monument) which he purchased.

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Bas relief procured by Pococke (1 ft, 9 ins in length, 13 ins wide)

At Artacina, or Rocca, he saw the remains of some rooms which, he said, “the people say belong to the ancient Greeks, and they have some fables relating to it of a giant whom they call Ienes.” Unfortunately his lack of description does not help identify these rooms in any manner.

Pococke left Khania and headed eastward to Retimo (Rethyminon) in order to “make a tour round the island” although he was not to achieve this intention. He then headed south east to Matala where he came across some ruins of Castro Matala and cut into the rocks semicircular niches “hollowed in like graves, and a stone laid over them” but gave no indication of date of the site. He then observed, “In searching for Lebena further to the west, I found a place which I thought to be of greater consequence … that is the fair havens, near unto the city of Lasea; for there is a small bay about two leagues east of Matala, which is now called … Fair Havens.” This is confusing as Lasea (Lisia) is about 6 miles south east of where Matala is today and Lebena is the same distance east of Lasea. He was misplacing these sites – putting Lasea (‘Fair Havens’) where Lebena is today and Matala where Lasea is and Lebena where Matala is now situated (get it? ……. never mind).

 Fair Havens

Fair Havens

At Gortyns (not on the above map but just north of Lasea – 6 on map), Pococke was aware of its early origins, referring to Homer’s mention of it as a walled city (Iliad 2.646) and that “the walls were afterwards destroyed”. Indeed, there are no Bronze Age walls remaining at the city, although it does date back to this period (having been inhabited without interruption since 4000 BC). He described several ruins which would have been most likely Roman, including a theatre.  He did mention the ‘labyrinth’ (see blog in June) but believed it to be “nothing more than a quarry, out of which Gortynia was built … and they might choose to hollow out such a large grotto, rather than work this quarry in the common way, that their families might retire to it on any invasion, and secure their riches.”

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Gortyns labyrinth/quarry

At Knossos, Pococke came upon what he thought was the ancient city and observed that it was the place of the labyrinth of King Minos and “In the time of Minos, Amniso was used as its (Knossos) harbour.” Certainly this reference to Amniso(s) as port of Minos perhaps supports the idea that he believed in – and recognized – an early civilization. He did then go on to describe some ruins that he saw, including several large arches which he described as platforms for seats of a theatre.

Not far from Knossos, to the south, is Mount Iouktas (Joukta), the supposed burial place of Zeus. It is not clear whether Pococke actually visited the top of the mountain – probably not as he talked of what the modern Greeks said was up there (a temple and tomb) rather than what he saw for himself, “They relate (my italics) that there was a temple dedicated to him [Zeus] on this hill …”. Turning north he headed for Candia (Herakleion), but other than assuming it may have also been a port to Knossos, he made no ancient discoveries around the town.

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Cyclopean remains on Mount Iouktas – what Pococke missed!

He did ascend the Idaian Mountains (Mount Ida), the site where Zeus was said to have grown up, hiding from his father, Cronos, but Pococke was not impressed.  He made a mere reference to a small rough grotto on the north side of the mountain but the cave that was later to reveal many Bronze Age Minoan artifacts was not a ‘small grotto’ (see pic below).

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The cave of Mount Ida

On his return to Khania he announced, “Having seen everything that was curious, I returned to Canea [Khania].” This was to be proven not the case by the likes of Robert Pashley (1830s), Thomas Spratt (1850s) and Sir Arthur Evans (1900s) – much more was to be discovered.

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Pococke’s map of Crete, 1745

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Next week: Whilst on the subject of antiquarian travellers to Crete, let me introduce you to Robert Pashley, barrister.


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

A crazy place America. I spent some time living and excavating on a farm in Arizona. One day a DEA (Drugs Enforcement Administration) officer called in on me and said, “I need to inspect your farm for illegally grown drugs.” I said, “Okay, but do not go in that field over there,” and pointed out the location.

The DEA verbally exploded and said, “Mister, that’s exactly where I’m gonna start. Reaching into his rear trouser pocket, he removed his badge and proudly displayed it to me.  “See this badge?  This badge means I’m with the Federal Government and I am allowed to go wherever I wish . . . . on any land.  No questions asked or answers given.  Have I made myself clear?  Do you understand?”

I nodded politely, apologized, and went about my business.

A short time later, I heard loud screams and saw the DEA officer running for his life chased by my big Santa Gertrudis bull.  With every step the bull was gaining ground on the officer, and it seemed likely that he would be gored before he reached safety. I threw down my tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of my lungs . . . . .

 “Your badge, show him your badge!”

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Linear B decipherment: credit where credit is due

LINEAR B is an ancient Greek language used by the Mycenaeans from mainland ‘Greece’ in the 2nd millennium BC. Although it was found at Knossos in Crete it is not a Minoan language (‘Minoan’ is Sir Arthur Evans’ name for ancient Cretans). Linear A is most likely Minoan but we do not know what that language is. The reason so much Linear B has been found at Knossos is because the Mycenaeans took over there around 1450BC. The clay tablets inscribed with Linear B have survived because, although originally sun dried, they were hardened, and so preserved, by the fire that destroyed Knossos (and also Pylos on mainland Greece).

Linear B

Linear B is a combination of pictogram and linear signs. The former were relatively easy to identify (well, some of them). Alice Kober (see below) was able to interpret male from female animals.

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 Pictograms – using the bottom one (sheep, etc) and the numbers’ code below, see if you can decipher some of the Co 903 Linear B tablet below (answer at the end)

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Linear B tablet Co 903 from Knossos (1450 BC)

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Sir Arthur Evans excavated at Knossos from 1900 and discovered three different types of ‘writing’. He called them hieroglyphics (engraved pictures on sealstones), Linear A and Linear B. Linear A was limited in number so undecipherable but Evans had some 2000 Linear B tablets from Knossos and he was determined to decipher them himself but to no avail. Unfortunately, in his determination to be the first to discover the language he refused to allowed anyone else to see the tablets (other than a small number – see below) during his life-time.

Painting of Arthur Evans (from the Ashmolean Museum)

On the 1st July 1952, Michael Ventris (an architect), after years of study, announced on the radio that he had deciphered Linear B as ancient Greek. There is no doubt that Ventris was a genius but he would not have made his discovery so soon had it not been for the America classicist, Alice Kober. She had been privately working on Linear B since the beginning of the 1930s and was also a bit of genius herself. As with Ventris, she was good at learning languages and, whilst holding down a full-time job as a teacher at Brooklyn College, she learnt ancient Hittite, Old Irish, Akkadian, Tocharian, Sumerian, Old Persian, Basque, Chinese and Sanskrit. She felt she needed these languages to prepare herself for the study of Linear B. She also taught herself braille so she could teach classics to the blind.

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Michael Ventris

Her main problem was the lack of tablets she had available to her to study. She only had about 200 – around 150 of which Evans had published and another 38 which Johannes Sundwall had published, without permission, having seen them at a museum in Crete – much to Evans’ annoyance. On Evans death in 1941, Kober had a breakthrough – Evans’s executor, Sir John Myers, allowed her to see Evans’s drawings of all his Linear B finds. She visited the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford where they were kept and had 6 weeks to copy as many as she could.

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Alice Kober 

Not long afterwards, the American archaeologist, Carl Blegen, unearthed many more Linear B tablets at Pylos on the west of mainland Greece. Kober wrote to him to ask if she could see them but he declined. At this time she was working with Emmett L. Bennett Jnr. It was Bennett who worked out that there were 89 syllabic signs to Linear B – this repertoire of signs was crucial to both Kober’s and Ventris’ work.

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Emmett L. Bennett Jnr.

Kober worked on a card system database and end up with some 180,000 cards plus around 40 notebooks. Perhaps her main contribution was the vastly important discovery that Linear B made use of inflection. This means it has a different ending to the word depending on gender and/or declension – like Greek and Latin (remember amo, amas, amat … at school?). She discovered this by finding a group of three different endings to the same beginning of a word – Ventris called it her ‘triplets’. She then drew up a grid showing the relationships among the characteristics in the abstract – a phonetic pattern of consonants and vowels (which signs shared a consonant and which signs shared a vowel). Syllabic patterns were beginning to emerge. Sadly she died, probably of cancer (she was a heavy smoker), in May 1950 at the age of 43, before she was able to conclude her work. This was left to Ventris.

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Kober’s ‘triplets’ – first two characters are the same  but with different underlined endings: inflection

It was this grid and knowledge that Linear B was inflected that Ventris worked from and realised that the endings were not grammatical but derivational (extending the size of words – e.g. just add ing on to an English word). He decided that Kober’s triplets might be place names and this led him to identify words such as the town of Amnisos (a-mi-ni-so) and from here the derivation fitted in: a-mi-ni-si-jo  meaning  ‘men of Amnissos’. The same then applied to Knossos (ko-no-so) and so forth. Simples! Linear B was Greek. He had cracked it!

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However, in finally deciphering the language he gave Kober little credit for it on his first radio broadcast and only occasionally mentioned her involvement thereafter.

Even after his announcement Ventris was still in doubt, as were some academics. It wasn’t until Blegen came across 400 more tablets at Pylos in the Summer of 1952 that Ventris’ theory was confirmed and the sceptics faded. After studying the tablets in Spring 1953, Blegen obligingly sent his report to Ventris and one tablet in particular, the ‘tripod’ tablet, ta 641, stood out (see picture below). This tablet, using Ventris’ decipherment, contained the words ti-ri-po-de and ti-ri-po (dark and light blue rectangles on picture below) meaning, in Greek, two tripods and tripod respectively, with a picture of a tripod associated with each ‘sentence’ further along the tablet (red squares on picture below) [1].   On the line below, using Ventris’ decipherment, were the words di-pa  me-zo-e  qe-to-ro-we (green rectangle) meaning, in Greek, large four-handle goblet  and next to that a picture of a large four-handle goblet (yellow square); then the words  di-pa  me-zo-e  ti-ri-we-e (brown rectangle) meaning large three-handle goblet with a picture of a large three-handle goblet next to it (purple square). It all fitted!

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Linear B ‘tripod’ tablet Ta 641: top line, in dark blue rectangle, ti-ri-po-de (two tripods), light blue rectangle ti-ri-po (tripod), in red squares a tripod with the number of them next (vertical dash);  middle line, in green rectangle, di-pa  me-zo-e  qe-to-ro-we (large four-handle goblet), in yellow square a large four-handle goblet; in brown rectangle,  di-pa  me-zo-e  ti-ri-we-e (large three-handle goblet), and in purple square a large three-handle goblet

Ventiris first set eyes on Linear B when he was aged 14. Some of the tablets were on display at Burlington House in London and he was visiting with his school group from Stowe. Evans was there and told Ventris and his chums that it had not yet been deciphered. From that day Ventris was determined to have a go at it. It had been his ‘life-time’ ambition, but now, in 1952, having done it, he was at a loss as to what to do next. He wasn’t interested in the language itself, just cracking its ‘codes’. He returned to architecture but soon lost interest and suffered depression. Then, in September 1956, aged 34, he crashed his car and was killed. Some speculate it was suicide (his mother had depression and committed suicide), others put it down to a tragic accident. We’ll never know.

So, when we talk about Linear B decipherment, Michael Ventris’ name always comes to the fore. Although credit must go to him for finally breaking the ‘code’, some credit must go to Emmett L. Bennett Jnr and a great deal of credit must also go to Alice Kober. So there you go.

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Footnote

[1] The full reading of the left-hand tripod in the picture is: ti-ri-po-de  a(i)-ke-u  ke-re-si-jo  we-ke  II (2)  meaning ‘two tripods cauldrons of “Cretan” workmanship’ The full reading of the right-hand tripos is: ti-ri-po  e-me  po-de  o-wo-we I (1)  meaning ‘one tripod cauldron of “Cretan” workmanship’.

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Further info:

On Ventris, see YouTube video A Very English Genius – 7 parts; Click here for Part 1  (see Part 4 for Bennett and Kober)

Reading: A good book on Evans’, Kober’s and Ventris’ contributions to Linear B is Margalit Fox’s The Riddle of the Labyrinth, Profile Books, 2014; on Linear B see John Chadwick’s Reading Linear B and related scripts, The British Museum Press, 2001 (Chadwick was a great help to Ventris after his announcement that he had deciphered the script).

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Next week: Back to Hollywood and fact or fiction – Spartacus

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Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

Dr Quentin St John Balacava appeared late for our meeting. He said:

“My dear Artemus, profound apologies old boy, but I just could not find a parking space. Got one eventually. I Looked up to heaven and said, ‘Lord take pity on me.  If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of my life and give up Whisky.’ Miraculously, a parking place appeared. So I looked up again and said, ‘Never mind Lord, I found one.”’

Art Smth