Duncan Mackenzie

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Duncan Mackenzie
Duncan Mackenzie.png
Duncan Mackenzie.
Scientific career

Duncan Mackenzie (1861–1934) was a Scottish archaeologist, whose work focused on one of the more spectacular 20th century archaeological finds, Crete's palace of Knossos, the supposed centre of Minoan civilisation.

He was born to a poor Highland family in Ross and Cromarty, Scotland; studied philosophy at Edinburgh University; and received his PhD from Vienna in classical archaeology. After earning a great reputation as a field archaeologist at Phylakopi, he was recommended to Sir Arthur Evans to help him run his dig at Knossos. The two would work together for the next thirty years.

Mackenzie was Evans' second in command during his excavations of Knossos. He kept detailed records as Evans' assistant of daily discoveries and served as a middle man between Evans and the inhabitants of Crete. Despite the crucial role he played in the excavations, Mackenzie was eventually fired by Evans. In Time and Chance, Joan Evans said that Mackenzie became very difficult to work during the latter years of his curatorship because of "the gradual onset of his illness."[citation needed] It has also been said that Evans found Mackenzie one night passed out on a table and fired him the next day.[citation needed] Friends of Mackenzie disputed this, saying he did not drink. In any case, this removal devastated Mackenzie and exacerbated the mental illness from which he already suffered.[citation needed]

After Mackenzie's death in Italy, some of Evans' system of Minoan dating came into question. Mackenzie's meticulous work was the key witness in defense of Evans' work.[citation needed] Though there was conflict between Evans and Mackenzie, Evans respected Mackenzie for his contributions[citation needed] to the excavation and paid tribute to his right-hand man in the last volume of The Palace of Minos.


  • Momigliano, Nicoletta. Duncan Mackenzie: A Cautious Canny Highlander and the Palace of Minos at Knossos (Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies Supplement; 72). London: Institute of Classical Studies, 1999 (ISBN 0-900587-83-0).
    • Reviewed by William M. Calder, III in the American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 104, No. 4. (Oct., 2000), p. 793.

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