Explosive Tourism

Tickets! Tickets please!
Oh, hello there! Are you here for the geology tour of Santorini? I’ll be taking a group on a tour around the island to the see the active volcanic dome, the Akrotiri Archaeological site, different beaches created by volcanic events, and much more! It all starts here at Fira port and all you need is a tick-Ah! I see you’ve already got one. Perfect! Climb aboard my boat, the Gem of the Sea, and let the adventure begin! Continue reading “Explosive Tourism”

Ignorance is Not Bliss: What Doomed Pompeii and Saved Akrotiri

Throughout our study here on Santorini, our geologic knowledge was built up to one main event: the Minoan eruption. As an anthropology major, all I was concerned about was the settlement of Akrotiri, which was preserved beneath the ash. As I wandered through the excavation site of Akrotiri, I began to draw comparisons between this city and the city of Pompeii.
The main point of difference between these two very similar cases is the death toll. Akrotiri excavations have turned up no human remains, or any sign of human activity during the eruption at all. This indicates that the Minoans evacuated before the eruption even began, most likely during the preliminary earthquakes. Conversely, Pompeii is closely linked in memory to the bodies found preserved in casts of ash. While all of Pompeii has not be excavated, the number of bodies found represents a tenth of the overall population, putting the death toll in the thousands.
I began to wonder: why did Akrotiri evacuate and not Pompeii? There are several possible factors that could have led to the Minoans abandoning their city before the real danger even began.

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The Treasure Under the Ash

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.

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The Birth of an Island

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.

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Subsidence: The Story of a Great and Wonderful Empire

“[…] 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.

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Buried Treasure: The City of Akrotiri

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”

What lies beneath? New discoveries at Ancient 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.

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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.

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A Step into Ancient Akrotiri

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.

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Cut scene: Phase 0

 

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.

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