Ancient Akrotiri’s Warning

Walking through the door that led to the excavated remains of the ancient city of Akrotiri, I wondered what I would see. I remembered learning about the people of Akrotiri and how something had caused them to leave before the Santorini eruption. But nobody really knew or had an explanation of where the Minoans could have gone, just that no remains of their bodies have ever been found.

The city of Ancient Akrotiri was home to the Minoan people. They were an advanced civilization with a sophisticated level of communication outside of their territory. They showed evidence of trade with places as far as Africa, indoor plumbing, specialization in crafts (pottery, carved gold rings), textile, and paintings.

I started to think of how they knew when to leave and where did they go. At the ancient site, you can see evidence of them packing up their belongings, from tables being flipped over to beds being stacked together. It was also brought to my attention that they were packing their things with the intention of returning.

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Figure 1 : Tables Flipped Over

The past week and a half, we learned in class that many different events happened before the Minoan Eruption. This particular eruptions had many preceding earthquakes and seismic activity before the actual eruption. Many other big volcanic eruptions in history, like Mt. Vesuvius, Italy, in 79 A.D. had little to no seismic activity at all before the volcano erupted.

Signs of seismic activity forced the Minoans to leave their homes. Broken staircases, collapsed walls, houses reduced to ruins have been found beneath the earliest deposits of the Minoan Eruptions. The Earthquakes caused the buildings to have shear stress. Shear stress is force tending to cause deformation of a material by slippage along a plane or planes parallel to the imposed stress.Thinking back to this lesson I remember reading that they actively cleaning while these eruptions were going on but somewhere in between the earthquakes and the beginning of phase 1, something had to have clued into them that it was time to go.

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Figure 2 :This is a picture of the famous stairway that broke during the shear wave from the earthquakes. This caused the building to sway from the force of the earthquake which caused the wall to crumple into each other

A layer of fine ash was left undisturbed over the landscape, which tells us that they had to have left before it was deposited.The layer of fine ash that blanketed the landscape is called Phase 0.The ash, which is about 1-8 centimeters in thickness depending on the area in which you stand, blanketed the landscape during the stage of eruption, like the first layer of snow blankets the land.  It’s interpreted as the result of phreatomagmatic (magma + water flashing to steam) explosions during the opening phase of the Minoan eruptions [1] and was laid down in the form of fine water-quenched particles in the lowermost levels of the Minoan pumice on Akrotiri peninsula.

These earthquakes were probably strong enough to be an effective warning for the people. The Minoan Civilization of the Ancient Akrotiri were given a blessing in disguise. This series of earthquakes signaled to the Minoans to pack up their belonging and leave. There is still a lot of evidence that has yet to be found. It’s possible that the Minoans were able to leave quickly and arrive on Crete and retreat to the palace of Knossos or we could discover their remains in the areas of Akrotiri that have yet to be discovered.For my information about Phase 0, you can refer to my fellow classmate Becca’s blog (Cut Scene: Phase 0).




Friedrich, W, 2009, SANTORINI – Volcano – Natural History – Mythology; Narayana Press, Denmark the Author and Aarhus University Press, 300 pages.


4 thoughts on “Ancient Akrotiri’s Warning

  1. Hi Elacha – Importantly here, phase 0 is undisturbed in Akrotiri, which shows that the Minoans must have left between the time the seismic activity started (because they were cleaning up the rubble) and the time the first few centimeters of ash were laid down over the city.

    Also – for your next post – try to use common item or food analogies for non-geologists to understand complex geologic processes. Shear stress for example can be related to shredding paper or at the very least, explained in a manner that people can understand if they haven’t had any geology classes (walls shake laterally and compress the staircase in between).

    There are grammatical and punctuation errors throughout that need to be fixed.

    I like the images you used for this post (but its hard to understand what to look at in figure 1)

    Looking forward to what you come up with next! – Lisa

  2. Hi Elacha,

    Your opening paragraph hooked me right away! I was immediately interested in the mystery of the people of Akrotiri. As someone who has never heard of these people, I think you did well by explaining a few of the components of their society that makes them special: trade, indoor plumbing, and their sophisticated art artifacts.

    Your personal narrative is present in your post because you bring your reader along with you on the journey of discovering why the people of Akrotiri left before the Minoan Eruption. As a reader, I felt like you were the detective that was showing me clues as I followed along. This aspect especially engaged me while reading your post.

    When you discussed geological concepts, you made sure to keep an outside audience in mind by explaining a term after you used it. This was especially well done when you discussed Phase 0 and described it as “the first layer of snow that blankets the land.” I agree with Dr. Skinner that these types of comparisons and use of vivid imagery is very helpful for readers trying to understand complex geological concepts.

    For the most part, I think your conclusion is strong here. You let your readers know that while there is still more research to be done, it is very likely that the seismic activity before the Minoan Eruption caused the Akrotiri people to abandoned their homes. Since you mentioned that there was little to no seismic activity before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, I’m curious as to why certain eruptions have seismic activity and some don’t. It seems that the people of Akrotiri were actually very lucky that they were given a heads up!

    Overall, your post was extremely intriguing and fun to read. I certainly learned a lot! Mainly I think this post was especially successful because you not only focused on a fascinating mystery, but you took readers along with you on your journey of finding out the why of this situation. Your strong narrative and relation to readers made this post very memorable.

    Awesome work!


  3. Hi Elacha,

    Your post was very interesting, especially for someone who is studying anthropology! It’s interesting to think we may never know what tipped of the Minoan people about the eruption, but you brought up valid theories in your post.

    I do think your introduction paragraph lacked some information. Right after the introduction paragraph, you went on to describe the Minoan people. This led me to believe the post would be more about the Minoan people rather than the theories about what warned them of the eruption. Remember the first paragraph introduces the main points to readers, so for future posts make sure the main points are easy to spot for readers.

    Throughout the post you have some sentences which could be broken up into separate sentences. Having the occasional long sentence does keep the reader’s interest, however there was one example I found which stumped me when I first read it. “Thinking back to this lesson I remember reading that they actively cleaning while these eruptions were going on but somewhere in between the earthquakes and the beginning of phase 1, something had to have clued into them that it was time to go.” It’s a good idea to write about the daily life activities of the Minoan’s, since it helps readers relate to them, however this sentence might help explain things better if it was two different ones.

    The images helped give me an idea of what you described in the post. Usually I’d say a diagram here and there could provide more visual variety, however I think you made the right choice in using these. You also described terms throughout the post, which ensures readers with little to no geology knowledge understand your post.

    Can’t wait to read your next post!

  4. Hi Elacha – I just want to add that I think your use of personal narrative in this post is a great improvement over the first. Be sure to keep up that style of writing in your third post and also – get a second or third pair of eyes on your writing to catch grammatical errors and improve your sentence structure. Good job.

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