SANTORINI



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Santorini - The volcanic caldera - Dating the eruption

Dating the eruption
These historically significant effects on the island of Crete, and on Minoan and Eastern Mediterranean civilisation in general, make it vitally important to understand precisely when the eruption of Santorini occurred. It is one of the most valuable fixed points of Eastern Mediterranean chronology. It was also a hypothesis that the cataclysm was directly responsible for the evidence of destruction in Crete in the Late Bronze Age that spurred Spyridon Marinatos to excavate at Akrotiri in the first place, and to make the discoveries he did (see p. 81-2). He surmised, and produced good evidence from pottery styles in support of his theory, that the eruption occurred around 1500 BC, that it profoundly ruptured and hob bled the Palace Culture of Crete and opened a breach into which pushed the ever opportunistic Mycenaeans from mainland Greece. one scholar, Hans Goedicke, sought to bring the date further forward to 1477 BC: his desire was to make it coincide with the date required by a pharaonic inscription of the reign of Thutmose III which appears to describe the events of the crossing of the red Sea by the Israelites (known to us best from Exodus 14, vv. 15- 31) from the Egyptian point of view. In this way, he suggested, we can explain the extraordinary phenomenon of the sea withdrawing and then returning to crush the Egyptian forces as a consequence of tidal displacements and tsumani caused by the eruption of Santorini.
   New physical research at the end of the last century called for a radical adjustment to these estimates, how ever. The dust propelled into the stratosphere in an eruption of such magnitude causes a period of global cooling, with a parallel reduction in the growth of trees. Den drochronologists have noted both narrow growth rings among oaks preserved in the bogs of Ireland and in fossilised bristle-cone pines in California for the period corresponding to the decade following 1628 BC. This date initially appeared to be corroborated by examination of signs of increased acidity and the presence of minute shards of volcanic glass in the Greenland ice-sheet, which Danish geologists dated to c. 1645 bc, Β± 20 years: it now seems, however, that this anomaly may in fact be the effect of another volcanic explosion in Alaska. Most recently, radio-carbon dating of seeds and wood found in the ash on Santorini itself, would seem to allow for a date of no later than 1600 BC. The fact that the storage jars for grain at Akrotiri are usually found almost empty when excavated, suggests that the eruption may have taken place shortly before the time of the island’s early harvest in June. Physical analysis therefore argued that the eruption occurred somewhere around 1625 BC, and that, although its effect on Crete and the other neighbouring islands must have been momentarily devastating, it could not sensibly be considered more than the first event in a domino chain of consequences over the next two centuries which may have led to the ultimate demise of Minoan civilisation.
   These results are in direct contradistinction to the no less scientific or coherent findings of archaeology. Egyptian artefacts found in the Aegean and Aegean artefacts found in Egypt occur in the same sequence, permitting a clear correlation between stylistic phases and Egyptian historical chronology. Such meticulous stratifigraphic evidence of ceramic deposits from across the Eastern Mediterranean, and cross reference of the dating of the artefacts traded between Crete and Egypt, combined with inscriptions and depictions from the early years of the regency of Queen Hatshepsut in the reign of her nephew Thutmose III, point to a date around 1500 BC or even later: but they cannot be interpreted to align with the date in the 17th century BC provided by the physicists.
   The debate is far from resolved: no acceptable resolution is even in sight. Doubts have been expressed regard anomalies in the calibration of radiocarbon dating for this particular period: while, on the other hand, an absolute chronology for Egypt in this period is also not fully agreed upon. The biggest problem remains that, even allowing for recalibration on the physics side, as well as for the closest (‘high’) chronology for Egyptian history, the gap is still not closed. Those who wish to dig more deeply into this complex debate should turn to the Acts of the Minoan Eruption Chronology Workshop in Sandjberg, Denmark, in november 2007, published by the Danish Institute in Athens in 2009 as Time’s Up! Dating the Minoan Eruption of Santorini. on balance – because the archaeological evidence appears so compelling in this case, whilst the source of the anomalies observed by physicists are less clear – this book will follow, not without reservation, the later, ‘archaeological’ date, i.e. c. 1500 BC for the eruption of Thera.


Santorini Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.


access

Santorini Island, Greece.

By air: Santorini is wellconnected with four daily flights to Athens with both Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines, and three to Thessaloniki with Aegean. Aegean also operates a once-weekly direct flight to and from Milan and Rome, from July to September. The airport takes large aircraft, and is four and a half kilometres from Chora.
By boat: At Santorini the (new) ferry port (Athiniós) is seven and a half kilometres from Chora. There are generally two or three daily boat connections to Piraeus, taking nine hours by car-ferry and five hours by high-speed vessel; most stop at Paros and/or Naxos en route.
There are links to Anaphi, Folegandros, Sikinos and Ios , and with Crete, five or six times weekly (these drop to twice-weekly in the winter).
There are direct links to Milos twice-weekly throughout the year.
Boats for Therasia leave from the port of Oia at Amoudi (12 km from Chora), daily at 8 am and midday, to Riva. A connecting local bus to Potamos and Manolas (Chora) – 10 mins. Sometimes the boat route includes Korfos harbour, directly below Manolas, in addition to Riva

Santorini Travel Guide

eating

Santorini Island, Greece.

Between the twin traps of the expensively pretentious and the indifferently touristic, there are still a few good places to eat on Santorini.
Ta Delphinia the water’s edge in the Bay of Akrotiri is a family run fish-taverna, which largely serves its own catch of fish accompanied by its own local wine (from March to August), and an array of traditional mezés, which include a delicious Santorinian fava and tomatokeftedes. The taverna Aktaion (often known as ‘Roussos’) at the very beginning of Firostefáni (as you arrive by foot from Chora), though small, serves local food, including a good prassopitta – a pie made with mixed greens and leeks.
50m north of it, is the best and most genuine Italian eatery in the Aegean (run by Italians), called Il Cantuccio. For a more highly-wrought cuisine, still based on Greek ingredients, Selene at the southern extremity of Chora offers peace and a beautiful view in addition to some interesting dishes.
Franco’s Bar in Chora merits mention as a historic institution: one of the first bars of the 1970’s on Santorini, it still serves (expensive, but wellprepared) cocktails to the accompaniment of classical music, in front of one of the most dramatic sunsets in Europe.
On Therasia, Taverna Panorama in Manolas, at the top of the steps from the harbour of Korfos, has an excellent view, passable food, but wayward prices.

Santorini Travel Guide

further reading

Santorini Island, Greece.

Ferdinand Fouqué, whose book Santorini et Ses Eruptions was first published in French in 1879, and reissued in an English translation by Alexander McBirney in 1999 by Johns Hopkins university Press, is the first comprehensive study of the island’s geology and volcanic history. J.V. Luce, The End of Atlantis (first published by Thames & Hudson, London, 1969; reprinted by Efstathiadis & Sons, Athens, 1982) is indebted to Fouqué, but follows the theme of Plato’s legend of Atlantis and its relation to Santorini. Nanno Marinatos, in Art & Religion in Thera: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Society (Athens, 1984) lays out a clear and cogent explanation of the paintings from Akrotiri. The Wall Paintings of Thera (Athens, 1992) by Christos Doumas,the current head of excavations at Akrotiri, is also authoritative and clear on the subject – as are all his many excellent articles and writings on Theran matters. For the lat est debate on the dating of the eruption of Thera, see: Acts of the Minoan Eruption Chronology Workshop in Sandjberg, Denmark in november 2007, published by the Danish Institute in Athens in 2009 as Time’s Up! Dating the Minoan Eruption of Santorini.

Santorini Travel Guide

lodging

Santorini Island, Greece.

On Santorini, the Kavalari Hotel (T.22860 22347, fax 22603, www.kavalari.com) is one of the older hotels on the island, centrally placed, with magnificent views, created from traditional Santorinian houses cut into the native lava at the top of the cliff above the caldera. It is simple, friendly, unpretentious, and beautiful: there is no elevator, however, and the rooms are reached down precipitous flights of steps.
For greater ease of access (also near the Metropolitan Church) is the Theoxenia Hotel (T.22860 22740, fax 22950, www.theoxenia.net): panoramic and very pleasant, with a good breakfast served in the rooms. The island’s oldest hotel, the Atlantis (T.22860 22111, fax 22821, www.atlantishotel. gr) is practical, straightforward, welcoming and superbly sited; it is one of Santorini: practical informati on 97 the few hotels open all year round.
The Aressana Hotel (T.22860 22860, fax 23902, www.aressana.gr), opposite the Atlantis, is also comfortably appointed and convenient. On one of the highest points of the cliff, with views directly over the caldera, Anteliz Apartments Hotel (T.22860 28842, fax 28843, www. anteliz.gr) is modern and attractive, with spacious rooms and a pool. For ‘boutique chic’, Homeric Poems (T.22860 24661, fax 24660; www.homericpoems. gr) offers a luxurious and rarified atmosphere.Oia is generally more tranquil than Chora; it also has the most delightful place to stay on the island – Chelidonia Villas (T.22860 71827, fax 71649, www. chelidonia.com),which combines simplicity with good taste, friendliness and a perfect position (T.22860 71827, fax 71649, www. chelidonia.com), which combines simplicity with good taste, friendliness and a perfect position. On Therasia there are rooms to rent at Zacharo, just above Manolas to the south, T.22860 29102.

Santorini Travel Guide

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