When you first step foot into the excavation of the ancient Minoan town of Akrotiri the world seems to get just a little smaller. To stand in a spot where 4,000 years ago people walked those very streets going about their daily lives is one of the most amazing experiences a person can really have. The town sits now as a ruin covered in pumice and ash left over by the eruption that brought one of the most technologically advanced ancient civilizations to its knees.
Thousands of people mill around on the beautiful volcanic island of Santorini every day having little knowledge of the amazing geologic history that passes under their feet. The island is ever changing and is constantly forged then reforged by the liquified rocks churning beneath the sea. There are still those that know about the volcanism that has created the island you see today but fewer know of the true volcanic origins for this paradise.
“[…] There occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.”
In Critias and Timaeus, Plato tells the tale of a utopia devoured by the sea and never seen again. Many are familiar with the myth of Atlantis and most know it to be just that: a fable for the children, a simple story to spark the imagination. But I refuse to believe that. Though there is very little physical evidence to support Atlantis’ existence, there are a few lines in Plato’s dialog that make a convincing argument.
There is a silence as I enter the climate controlled dome to see the ancient city of Akrotiri. This is partially due to being told “Shhhhhh” by our professor Lisa, but it’s also because everyone’s jaw dropped while staring at these ruins. The only thing that could be heard was the pitter patter of feet from children and even they weren’t saying anything. It was like entering a 3600 year old church frozen in time by ash and pumice with even the colors of the frescoes being preserved. Continue reading “Buried Treasure: The City of Akrotiri”
For the third year in a row, I walk into Ancient Akrotiri, a 4,000 year-old Minoan town buried in meters of ash and pumice from the ~1613 BC caldera-forming eruption of Santorini Volcano. The excavation site is a gray labyrinth of 1-3 story houses, shops, narrow alleys and staircases built on gently dipping slopes and reflecting the modern pattern of villages on Santorini.
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.
Walking into a room full of ancient artifacts with no knowledge of why they’re in front of my face or what they’re about, I look up and see this fresco with bright, sky-blue daisies on top of a scarlet-maroon base. The colors were slightly faded but you could see that there was more to the painting than what was presented. I was so captivated by this piece of art, all I wanted to do was stare at it. I was curious to see if any other pieces would stand out to me, so I continued to walk around looking at the different paintings and reading up on the history of them. The paintings were filled with creativity and a sense of life. I was able to take a step into the city of Ancient Akrotiri.
In most horror films there is a warning scene right before everything goes down hill. You sit on the edge of your seat and shout at the group not to go into the basement for there is disaster lurking below. However, it is the characters’ decision whether to investigate the noise or get out as fast a possible. In the case of the Minoan eruption the earthquakes and phase 0 are the warning scene. In most horror or thriller films the main character walks toward the impending threat. However this is not the fate for the Minoans, or so we believe.
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 . 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.
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”