Department of Antiquities

Aegean Collections (Early Cyclades, Minoan Crete & Mycenaean Greece)

Octopus Pot. AN1911.608
Octopus Pot. AN1911.608

The Ashmolean possesses the finest collections outside Greece of material from the early Cyclades (the islands in the central Aegean) and Crete. The Cycladic collections, which include several marble figurines and vessels, copper and stone tools, jewellery and clay pots, were largely the gift of Prof. R.M. Dawkins and of the early BSA excavations (1896-1899) at Phylakopi on Melos as well as of A.J. Evans’s purchases for the Museum. The Ashmolean houses the largest collection of Aegean seals, rings and sealings and of Aegean scripts outside Greece and of Minoan antiquities outside Crete. The largest part of the Cretan antiquities comes from Sir Arthur Evans’s excavations at Knossos and his personal collections from his travels and explorations throughout Crete. It comprises clay, stone and metal vessels, fresco fragments, bronze weapons and tools, jewellery, clay coffins (larnakes) and figurines. Among the most notable assemblages are also the offerings from the Psychro Cave (A.J. Evans excavations) and the Petsofas Peak Sanctuary (J.L. Myres excavations). The collection also includes hundreds of historical replicas and a number of famous forgeries, such as the gems of the so-called ‘Thisbe Treasure’ and the ‘boy-God’.

A major strength of the Aegean collections is the relatively high percentage of provenanced material and the presence of the Arthur Evans Archive. Both elements present a remarkable opportunity to restudy the material from old excavations. The Arthur Evans Archive, in particular, comprises the original Knossos excavation notebooks, thousands of architectural and object drawings, excavation and restoration photographs, romantic watercolour drawings, newspaper cuttings, A.J. Evans’s correspondence, notes and off-prints, books and material from past exhibitions. There is also the J.L. Myres correspondence with several scholars working on the decipherment of Linear B (including an extensive correspondence with Michael Ventris and Alice Kober). The Museum also houses the P. de Jong cartoons collection. In addition, the Ashmolean holds representative Neolithic and Mycenaean collections, mainly pots and sherds from mainland Greece and the islands. The Aegean collections play an active role in the University’s teaching.

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