Born in Nash Mills, Hertfordshire; died in Youlbury, Oxfordshire.
His father was Sir John Evans, an authority om the Neolitic and Bronze Age in Europe, a geologist, antiquarian, numismatist, a fellow of the Royal Society, and a member of a paper-making firm.
Arthur Evans went to Harrow School. He then went Brasenose College, University of Oxford where he read modern history. He was disappointed at not winning a college fellowship despite obtaining a first class degree. He also studied at the University of Göttingen.
He travelled around Eastern Europe and was able to pursue his interest in archaeology while engaged as Balkan correspondent for the Manchester Guardian. However, after being accused of spying in Herzegovina and being banned from the Austro-Hungarian empire he returned to Oxford.
Between 1884 and 1908 he was curator of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. While there he re-arranged the collection to make it more suitable for archaeological research, and also organised its transferral to the large new building where it is now housed. He was married briefly until his wife, Margaret, died of tuberculosis in 1893
He developed an interest in coins and engraved gems and he detected on coins previously unnoticed artist signatures. It was announced in 1893 that he had discovered a Mycenaean system of writing. In 1894 he went to Crete to collect more examples of engraved hieroglyphs, and he found that local people were in the possession of clay tablets which bore signs of writing. He began to think that more could be discovered about the Mycenaeans from the site at Knossos, the legendary city of King Minos.
In 1899 he used family money to buy the site at Kephala outside Heraklion which had been suggested as the site of Knossos. On 23rd March 1900 he began excavations at the site, and by 10th April he was uncovering the first of the frescos that he was to make famous. The site and its interpretation occupied him for the rest of his life. As he was excavating Knossos he restored the buildings and frescos.
He was responsible for the discovery of the Minoan Civilisation, but he was criticised for some of his interpretations and for using materials in his reconstructions that the Minoans would not have known. He also had his own view about the history of the Labrys. He was knighted in 1911.
In 1924, when aged 73, he was arrested in Hyde Park and accused of committing an act of public indecency with George Cook.