Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 2019


While the Minoan Snake Goddess is one of the most reproduced and familiar images in the art historical canon, her function—and indeed, her very essence—continues to be shaped by the man who coined the term Minoan and discovered the site in which she and her sisters lay for generations undisturbed. When Sir Arthur Evans concluded that these statuettes were evidence of Minoan worship of a single great Mother Goddess in 1903, he finally fulfilled his aim discover a prehistoric European civilization to rival that of the ancient Near East. However, Evans did not simply discover these statuettes (and on a broader scale, the ruins themselves)—he meticulously restored and reconstituted them in order to fit his own narrative concerning Minoan religion. Evans’s finds at Knossos have proven to be a watershed moment in the field of Mediterranean archaeology and as such, his interpretations of the Snake Goddess, although unsubstantiated, continue to shape modern perceptions of Minoan art and culture. In an attempt to understand how Evans came to the conclusion that the Snake Goddess was one manifestation of the Great Mother Goddess, this thesis takes on a historiographical lens by critically examining and deconstructing the scholarly traditions and popular anthropological paradigms that Evans worked within in order to determine the degree to which preconceived notions of prehistory influenced Evans’s reconstruction and interpretation of the Snake Goddess figurines.