Akrotiri and the Preservation of its Pottery

Learning about the geological past and human history is something that has always intrigued me. To look at an object or place that is from a time period different than our own is remarkable. To have the opportunity to witness such a landmark has been truly wonderful. I can remember distinctly the feeling I got when I realized that we would be visiting Akrotiri. I was excited and full of questions. Walking into the excavation site and seeing the city  transported me back in time 3,600 years. You see an arrangement of 1, 2, and 3-story buildings and can visualize what they were used for and how tall the city would have stood in its prime time. Looking at Akrotiri, you see the amazing way that all the items especially pottery have been preserved. 

A French company that was building the Suez Canal discovered the Akrotiri in the 19th century. They were there to take some ash and send it back to Egypt for the construction of the canal. Once they removed the thick mantle of ash they found what they thought of as a “very old” civilization [1]. The city was recorded with precise scientific detail by a French volcanologist Folque. The real research and excavation of Akrotiri did not begin until the 1960s. During this time it was discovered that there was much more to unearth of Akrotiri [1].

Akrotiri when it was being excavated during the 1960s.

As a result of this discovery and the information that has been uncovered based on the artifacts and buildings life in Ancient Akrotiri is well understood.  Various everyday items such as pottery, bed frames, and wall paintings have been found in the city.

Bed frames found in one of the areas in Akrotiri.

The more it was excavated, the more pieces were found to start piecing together the site and recreating what it may have looked like during its time. Along with the actual building structures that were being excavated, there were also smaller artifacts such as pottery. The pottery that was found have been extremely well preserved by the pumice. Seeing the pottery in person allowed me to see the extent to which these relics had been preserved. The paint on most of them is still intact and the pictures drawn on them are clear.

Closer look at some of the pottery that was found at Akrotiri.
Some of the pottery at Akrotiri

Akrotiri and its artifacts have been nicely preserved by the pumice that was let out during Phase 1 of the eruption. Phase 1 was when there is pumice being ejected from the volcano, which is known as pumice fall.  During this phase, the temperature is very hot and the conditions are very dry and arid. The pumice that fell over Akrotiri differs in thickness. The first layer that fell over the city was approximately 3m. The second layer was from .50m-1m thick, and the final layer that fell on Akrotiri was about 5 m thick [2].These layers of pumice have worked to preserve what was left of the city.

Akrotiri has brought insight into the past and yet still has some mystery to it. Even though artifacts have been recovered and some of the city exposed, there is still much left to be done.  Akrotiri has not been fully excavated and it may not be done for quite some time. For now we must just learn from what has been done and found, and wait until the day we can uncover the whole truth.


[1] Pavlou, Clairy,2005, Prehistory Monographs, Volume 15:Akrotiri, Thera: An Architecture of   Affluence 3,500 years old. Philadelphia, PA,USA: INSTAP  Academic Press

[2]Friedrich W.L., 2009, Santorini: Volcano, Natural History, & Mythology, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 312 P.

3 thoughts on “Akrotiri and the Preservation of its Pottery

  1. Ashley – I think this post is well organized and I like how you explained how the pumice fall preserved materials on the ground. I am left with some questions though. We know that the lower levels of Akroteri were preserved by pumice fall, but what about the upper parts of the city. Are they also preserved or did they get destroyed by phases 2 and 3 of the eruption? Are the actual bed frames preserved?

    I see that you are fascinated with the pottery of Akroteri, but what was it used for? How many items have been found?

    For your next post, let’s work together (with Alex) to develop your topic.

  2. Hello Ashley.
    Nice post that connects the geological history of Akrotiri and the historical culture of Ancient Greece. Your post is short, concise, and provides an interesting well-written account of your time and experience in Greece. Adding the photographs of the well preserved pottery was a nice touch and it was a visual of the history and the preservation created by the eruption. Although, as Prof. Skinner makes note of, your post could be further expanded through providing some more thorough specifics on the use and significance of the pottery.
    The post is a nice read because you provide the historical preservation, the discovery of the buried city, and end on describing that the excavation of the city is unfinished.
    It was a pleasure to read such a thorough, concise, and well supported post on the cultural history dealing with Akrotiri.

  3. Hi Ashley,

    I enjoyed reading your post and it is clear after reading it that you have learned a lot from this experience. The topic you chose is interesting and not too overwhelming in terms of new information that only people in your field might understand. I think you’re writing in the proper tone for a blog: casual while still sounding academic.

    With your topic fully developed and your tone working well you have the biggest hurdles out of the way; what is left is to make the information accessible and engaging. A good way to make information flow smoothly is to vary sentence structure and length so there are not too many short sentences that feel incomplete or like they could be developed further, and no long ungainly sentences that leave your reader breathless. An example of a short sentence that could perhaps be longer and allow for some interesting new information is in your first paragraph: “I was excited and full of questions.” What I would like to hear is what those questions might be, because your voice and opinions are important and interesting. Another area you could address would be to try to answer any questions you think the reader might have after reading this post as it is: how well preserved are the bed posts, does the painting on the pottery resemble anything you’ve seen, how would you describe the process in which pumice preserves pottery, are ancient bed frames smaller than modern ones? What readers like to see is an engaging voice and information that they can process easily and that leaves them satisfied. You have the voice down, and your content is interesting, so what is left is just to indulge in trying to answer the questions you’d want answered after reading this.

    Looking forward to reading future posts.

    Justin Kanzler

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