Monthly Archives: April 2015

The remains of Akrotiri


The destruction of Pompeii by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 has been preserved in ancient times by an eye witness account, namely that of Pliny the Younger. The literary evidence and the spectacular finds from the site has made Pompeii one of the most well know archaeological sites in the world. However there is another well know site in the ancient world which was destroyed by volcanic eruption ,that of Akrotiri on the island of Santorini Greece.. Unfortunately, there is no literary evidence for the destruction of Akrotiri available to us. In actual fact the city was only discovered by an archaeological excavation carried out in 1967.


Akrotiri was a Bronze Age settlement located on the south west of the island of Santorini  ( Thera ) in the Greek Cyclades. This settlement is believed to be associated with the Minoan civilization, located on the nearby island of Crete, due to the discovery of the inscriptions in Linear A Script (Not yet deciphered ) , as well as similarities in artifacts and fresco styles.

Fresco from Akrotiri Acrobats

The Acrobats fresco Akrotiri

Fresco Miniature ships Akrotiri

Fresco Miniature Ships  Akrotiri         This one is my favourite .

The earliest evidence of human habitation of Akrotiri can be traced back as early as the 5th millennium B.C ., when it was a small farming and fishing village. By the end of the  3rd millennium, this community developed and expanded significantly. One reason for Akrotiri’s growth may be the trade relations it established with other cultures in the Aegean, as evidence of fragments of foreign pottery at the site. Akrotiri’s strategic position between Cyprus and Minoan Crete also meant that it was situated on the copper trade route, thus allowing them to become an important center for processing copper, as proven by the discovery of molds and crucibles there.

Fresco from Akrotiri. Everyday life

Fresco from Akrotiri.

Akrotiri’s prosperity continued for about another 500 years. Paved streets, an extensive drainage system, the production of high quality pottery., and further craft specialization all point to the level of sophistication achieved by the settlement. This all came to an end, however, by the middle of the 2nd century B.C. with the volcanic eruption of Thera.

Storage pot from Akrotiri

Storage pot from Akrotiri



Pottery Boars Head from Akrotiri

Pottery Boars Head from Akrotiri

Although the powerful eruption destroyed Akrotiri, it also managed to preserve the city, very much like that done by  Vesuvius to Pompeii. The volcanic ash has preserved much of Akrotiri’s frescoes, which can be found in the interior walls of almost all of the houses that have been excavated in Akrotiri. This may be an indication that it was not only the elites who had works of art. The frescoes contain a wide range of subjects, including religious processions, flowers, and everyday life in Akrotiri. In addition, the volcanic dust also preserved negatives of disintegrated wooden objects, such as offering tables, beds and chairs. This allowed archaeoogists to produce plaster casts of these objects by pouring liquid Plaster of Paris into the hollows left behind by the objects. One amazing difference between Akrotiri and Pompeii is that there were no uninterred bodies from the former. In other words, the inhabitants of Akrotiri were perhaps more fortunate than those of Pompeii, and were evacuated before the volcanic dust reached the site.

Ruins of Akrotiri

The Ruins of Akrotiri.  The most important Archaeological site in Greece.

Plaster castings of the corpses of a group of human victims of the 79 A.D. eruption of Vesuvius , found in the so-called “Garden of the fugitives” in Pompeii. No such remains exist at Akrotiri, indicating the people had time to evacuate. (Wikimedia) The eruption of Thera also had an impact on other civilizations. The nearby Minoan civilization, for instance, faced a crisis due to the volcanic eruption. This is debatable, however, as some have speculated that the crisis was caused by natural disasters occurring prior to the eruption of Thera. The short term climate change caused by the volcanic eruption  is also believed to have disrupted the ancient Egyptian civilization. The lack of Egyptian records regarding the eruption maybe attributed to the general disorder in Egypt during the Second Inter mediate Period. Nevertheless the available record s speak of heavy rainstorms occurring in the land, which is an unusual phenomenon. These storms may also be interpreted metaphorically as representing the elements of chaos that needed to be subdued by the Pharaoh. Some researchers have even claimed that the effects of the volcanic eruption were felt as far away as China. This is based on records detailing the collapse of the Xia Dynasty at the end of the 17th century B.C. and the accompanying meteorological phenomenon.

Finally, the Greek myth of the Titanomachy in Hesiod’s Theogony may have been inspired by this volcanic eruption, whilst it has also been speculated that Akrotiri was the basis of Plato’s myth of Atlantis. Thus, Akrotiri and the eruption of Thera serve to show that even in ancient times, a catastrophe in one part of the world can have severe repercussions on a global scale.




Posted by on April 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

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