Arthur Evans on “The Eastern Question in Anthropology”

“Mycenaean culture was permeated by Oriental elements, but never subdued by them. This independent quality would alone be sufficient to fix its original birthplace in an area removed from immediate continguity with that of the older civilisations of Egypt and Babylonia. The Aegean island world answers admirable to the conditions of the case. It is near, yet sufficiently removed, combining maritime access with insular security. We see the difference if we compare the civilization of the Hittites of Anatolia and Northern Syria, in some respects so closely parallel with that of Mycenae. The native elements were there cramped and trammelled from the beginning by the Oriental contact. No real life and freedom of expression was ever reached; the art is stiff, conventional, becoming more and more Asiatic, till finally crushed out by Assyrian conquest. It is the same with the Phoenicians. But in prehistoric Greece the indigenous element was able to hold its own, and to recast what it took from others in an original mould. Throughout its handiwork there breathes the European spirit of individuality and freedom. Professor Petrie’s discoveries at Tell-el-Amarna show the contact of this Aegean element for a moment infusing naturalism and life into the time-honoured conventionalities of Egypt itself.”

page 919 of Evans, A. J. 1896. “‘The Eastern Question’ in Anthropology,” Report of the
Sixty-Sixth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Held at Liverpool in September 1896, London, pp. 906–922.

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