To be or not to be a caveman…

Imagine for a brief moment how it would be to live or work in a cave type setting, do you think you would like it? You may think caves were mainly used by our prehistoric ansectors, but cave houses were the main source of shelter in Santorini after the 1956 earthquake hit the island. (For more information on the 1956  earthquake reference my 2nd blog The tragic events following the 1956 earthquake). Today, there are still a good amount of structures built into caves, and they are all around the island.

Figure 1. Cave house I took a picture of near Oia
Figure 2. The outside of a church at Cape Plaka
Figure 3. The interior of the same church. You can tell it looks like a cave more so in this image.


Cave houses were more in use after the 1956 earthquake because there weren’t  any building materials left on the island after most of the buildings were destroyed. Tree vegetation was limited as well, and what was there wasn’t sturdy enough to build with. Wealthier families ended up leaving the island but poorer families had to stay and live off what resources were left on the island.


The rock resource that was carved into to make these cave structures is known as phase 3 and sometimes phase 4 of the Minoan eruption that happened in 1613 BC.

Phase 3 is a massive, cool, pyroclastic flow of material. A pyroclastic flow is formed when an eruption column of a volcano goes up into the air and then falls down across the landscape following it until it finally stops and all that material–including gas, ash, and pumice is deposited right where it stopped.

Phase 4 is also a pyroclastic flow but a hot one instead of cool.

Phase 3 and 4 were picked to build cave structures in because of the location of where it was at, meaning they were the top layers of material deposited. They could also carve into it easily and it protected them from weather and wind when they did build structures into it.

Figure 4. Image C shows phase 3 (P3) as the top layer. Image D shows P3 as the bottom layer and phase 4 (P4) as the top layer (1).
Figure 5. This image represents the extent of phases 3 and 4 on the island. The dark green represents P4. The light green is representing P3 but includes phases 1 through 3 with it. Minoan material is nearly everywhere on the island and it could be difficult to capture where just one phase is located at (1).

Even though cave structures were one of the main options for shelter after the 1956 earthquake, they are known to be more dangerous in some cases to live in compared to normal (built on top of the ground and not into it) structures. Cave structures could be more dangerous because  they have a higher risk of rocks collapsing in if a strong enough earthquake hits. It’s also known that open spaces can be more problematic during shaking since there’s no material for shock waves to go into. Since a lot of the cave structures here in Santorini are positioned on the edge of the caldera rim there’s risk of landslides too, on top of rocks collapsing in and problematic shaking.

Cave structures are mostly built into phases 3 and 4 of the Minoan eruption because of the accessibility to those phases. Every type of structure will have its pros and cons though, and you just have to evaluate them if you plan on living in a potentially risky structure.

Overall, admiring the architecture of a cave structure can be a visually fulfilling moment. Especially seeing how cave structures are like here in Santorini. For me they were unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s definitely a unique experience to add to your bucket list.



1) Druitt T. H. (2014) New insights into the initiation and venting of the Bronze-Age eruption of Santorini (Greece), from component analysis. Bull Volcanol 76: 794

5 thoughts on “To be or not to be a caveman…

  1. Hi Tayler,

    Once again you have constructed a very well written entry that has captivated me as a reader while informing me about information on Santorini. You explained the phase three and four of the Minoan eruption clearly and organized the information in a well thought out order, allowing me to be able to follow the information quite easily. You also did a great job with staying on topic by referring to an older post of yours that goes deeper into an interesting topic. It was a good way to keep yourself on task for this entry.

    There were some small grammatical errors throughout the post that could be corrected, along with some transitions between the paragraphs that could be added to bring more structure to your overall entry. The transitions will help guide the reader to the next part of information that you will be explaining and make it easier to connect it to the information you have already given. For instance, you could add a transitional word when moving from talking about a phase three and a phase four pyroclastic flow (maybe along with a bit more information about it).

    1. And thank you once again for giving me such a thoughtful and helpful response to my blog. I’ll look it over again and see what I can do

  2. You incorporated our edits really well and I am happy that you were able to put into your own words the process by which pyroclastic flows deposit material. As Javin mentioned, there are some grammatical errors throughout. Please re-read with a careful eye and correct those. Also it would be good to add a feature photo.

    1. I still struggle with grammar some unfortunately, I will look over it again and see what I can correct though.

  3. I really liked the topic you picked and I think you did a great job with it. I would like to know more about the structure of their homes but you did a great job explains how they built their homes and why.

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