Settlements > Akrotiri

Akrotiri

Background

The Cycladic settlement of Akrotiri located on the island of Thera is one of the best preserved archaeological sites for the Bronze Age due to the volcanic eruption that occurred on the island of Santorini in 1628-27 BC. Because of this the settlement was covered in volcanic ash until it was excavated by the archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos in 1967. As the archaeologists continued to dig they revealed massive complexes of multi-leveled structures, paved streets and public squares. There was also walls that surrounded the city as high as 8 m.

In order to date the explosion on Santorini, archaeologists used dendrochronology which showed that earthquakes caused by the eruption inhibited the growth of the trees for that year. Other evidence comes in the form ash that was found in the ice cores of Greenland as well as Chinese written records that document the impacts of the explosion. From this it was determined that this was probably the largest volcanic eruption in the last 5,000 years only being surpassed by the explosion of Mount Tambora in AD 1815.

From this site we can determine that the Cycladic culture built multi-story houses and had a culture that is eerily similar to some of the structures seen today in many parts of the world. These houses featured windows and doors, as well as beautiful artwork such as frescos, murals and more. The Akrotiri site features some of the best preserved Minoan artwork in the region and depicts natural scenes as well as humans, events and more. One comparison that is noted between the artwork at Knossos and Akrotiri is the same color scheme used.

Something unique about this site however, suggests that the inhabitants abandoned the settlement prior to the volcanic eruption as there are no metal implements found or other valuable objects as well as bodies. Given there was no possible chance for the looting of the site, it is believed that the residents knew full well about what was going to happen and packed up and left. There is archaeological evidence of earthquakes on many structures that was believed to be months before the eruption but other archaeologists dispute this and say years or decades. Regardless, this was not the first time the Akrotiri residents faced natural disaster.

Sources

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