40K Years: Preserved in Time, Beneath Your Feet, Take a Peek

At a young age, many of us learned of Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius and the tragedy that engulfed the city of Pompeii in 79 CE. Although an extraordinary number of people are intrigued by natural disasters, few have heard of the Minoan eruption that blanketed a quickly abandoned ancient Greek civilization in approximately 1613 BCE [1]. In an effort to reveal a small fraction of the culture, construction, and catastrophe of what was Ancient Akrotiri, I will walk you through almost 40 thousand years of time.

Today, the smell of earth and dirt is strong inside Ancient Akrotiri’s bioclimatic shelter. Spending so much time outdoors, I was comforted by the musty smell. But with this familiar scent comes a distinct feeling of discomfort, evoked by the sight of a beautiful city, preserved in time by ash and pumice.

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Shaping the Landscape: A Topographical Change

When I think of topography, carved valleys, steep mountain slopes and flat plateaus come to my mind. It is the anatomy of the land and it can be used to enlighten anyone who may be inspired to further understand their surroundings. Lisa, my teacher calls this further comprehension of the land ‘spacial awareness’. I remember her saying, “You guys HAVE To HAVE TO understand where we travel on Santorini by map or you won’t learn anything!”. I am a land wanderer by nature so topography has been my hobby for a while. I like to study maps of where I have been and paste the stored memories of what I saw and experience into the contour lines of the canvas across my lap. What if I was a Minoan island goer from 1700 BC and Santorini was the land so familiar to me I called it home? Now what would my thoughts of my home be after the cataclysmic volcanic eruption of Santorini gave the land a major face-lift?  Continue reading “Shaping the Landscape: A Topographical Change”

The Grand Finale 

During my time here in Santorini I have done a lot of thinking. Thinking about life, volcanoes, and most of all trying to wrap my head around the earth that I am standing on. I have found a spot of my own here, it is off a beaten path, where no one goes and it has incredible view of the Kameni shield volcanoes. I have sat there for hours just trying to imagine the transitions and the magnificent power behind the construction of Santorini. There were many processes and five phases that have contributed to building this beautiful island, but the final phase, also known as phase four, and the phase I will be focusing on in this paper was catastrophic, the exit of this eruption was nothing short of grand.

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The River Before The Chaos

At first, I don’t see it. I look up and down the massive outcrop of pumice, ash, and lithic fragments that were launched from the volcanic vent during the Minoan eruption over the years and I still don’t see it. It wasn’t until my partner, Ray, pointed it out that I finally notice it: an odd, cluster of rocks that don’t match the rest. Lisa, our instructor, wanted us to try to figure it out before she told us the story behind the rocks. She left my partner and I to think about it while we started our stratigraphic section.

picture for blog post 2
Left Picture: Whole outcrop. Right Picture: Zoomed in picture of unknown rock.

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Evolution of the Santorini Volcano

Imagine being on the island of Santorini around the time of 1613 BC. Before the power of the Minoan eruption altered the landscape forever, you would be able to see this unstable volcanic vent surrounded by a landscape that had been reworked many times before by the forces of volcanism. As you look across the island you would be surrounded by the destructive beauty of hundreds of thousands of years of volcanic activity. You might feel safe and comforted because the last eruption was over 17,000 years ago. Although this time it is different, and there is a feeling that something may change, something may occur that will truly shape the island for the future. It is only a matter of time before this volcano begins to roar again, and present Santorini with an eruption that has never been seen within the Aegean Sea or the Mediterranean for that matter.

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A Little Ash Never Killed Nobody

Warning signs: we see them every day, from hazard signs on the roads, to symptoms in sickness. Some warning signs are only found in certain areas, for example mass wasting signs are usually only next to steep slopes. When getting sick, most people will experience symptoms before a full blown fever. It just so happened that the day we learned about warning signs, I was beginning to have warning signs of a cold myself (talk about one with the classroom). The warning sign that caught my eye though, was a thin layer of ash in between non-Minoan ash and Minoan pumice when our class visited Caldera Beach. Continue reading “A Little Ash Never Killed Nobody”

Under the Sea Darling its Better!

As a child, the lost city of Atlantis fascinated me. How could an entire empire just vanish in the blink of an eye without a trace? Before coming to Santorini my teacher sent out an article on Facebook about the possibility of Atlantis be in Santorini. After reading and talking to Lisa it was clear that there is real geological evidence for Atlantis being in Santorini. Continue reading “Under the Sea Darling its Better!”

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.  Continue reading “Akrotiri and the Preservation of its Pottery”

Defcon 0

You know how sometimes people will refer to a serious or dire situation as Defcon 5, or even 6 if they’re really dramatic? Well recently when I was watching the 1983 film War Games, I learned that Defcon 5 is actually the least severe alert and Defcon 1 is the most. For the Minoans, phase 0 would have been Defcon 0. Now I’m being dramatic, but not that much because phase 0, amongst a few other signs, warned the Minoans that if they did not leave Ancient Akroteri they would all perish in the massive explosion of the caldera.

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Ballistic Blocks, Steam Explosions, and Turbulent Flows?

From the point of view of a fictional Minoan character-

Sitting in our boats, miles from home, I look back to where we came from. I see my beloved island sitting on the horizon as life as I know it dissappeared. Everything happened so fast these past couple days that the events are starting to blur together into a swarm of panic, packing, and leaving. I yearn to go back to my beloved Santorini, back to before my life was interrupted by the ominous signs of our once-peaceful volcano…

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