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Tour of the site
The excavations occupy a long hollow which runs along a north/south axis. Entry to the site is generally at the south (lower) end, into an open space between two large building complexes to left and to right.
Xeste 3, to the left, appears to have been a two-floored dwelling with many rooms and a sacred area, constructed in ashlar masonry. The rooms in the part nearest to us were decorated with paintings, and must have functioned as an adyton, or place of cult. The paintings, depicting the Crocus Gatherers, covered both lower and upper floors; they fea tured women gathering wild crocus and putting them into baskets to offer them to a seated female divinity, flanked by a monkey and a gryphon.
Xeste 4, to the right, which is an extensive three-floor building, is currently under excavation and has revealed interesting decorations, amongst which is a depiction of a boar-tusk helmet, of a kind similar to that described by Homer.
As the open area closes into a small alley to the north, it passes the two-floor Building B (left): this was again magnificently decorated with the famous images of Antelopes and Boxing Children, in which the adjacent images of young, male competition in the human and animal worlds, provided a deliberate iconographic symmetry. A small room on the western side of the same building was decorated with the scene of scrambling Blue Monkeys, which is on display in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Chora (see p. 34).
In Building D, further north to the left, the large door and window frames, and storage areas with pithoi, can be clearly seen as they were found. At this point the municipal drainage system runs beneath the level of the pathway, the built-in down-pipes can also be seen at certain points. An example of a Minoan type of altar in the form of ox-horns, referred to as ‘Horns of Consecration’, is exhibited near to where it was found to the right-hand side, underlining the close cultic links with Crete.
As the street climbs further, a flight of partially collapsed stone steps to an upper floor can be seen to the left. You are now above the area of the cemetery of the earlier, 3rd millennium bc settlement. respect was paid by the later inhabit ants to the sacredness of this spot by the preservation of a small stone cenotaph (to the left) which contained marble figurines and grave goods from the cemetery, and which was always left visible in the city. Further to the north and slightly to the left, at the summit, (currently not accessible) is the so called House of the Ladies, named after the murals (now in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Chora; see p. 29) depicting elegant ladies in flounced dresses, participating in what appears to be a ritual dressing of a priestess or important female person. At the northern extremity of the site is the Building of the Pithoi, where a concentration of variously decorated, standing storage jars were found in a room with a large, low window perhaps used for dispensing the produce. It was here that Spyridon Marinatos made his first sounding on the site in 1967.
The permitted route leads round to the west (left) and down a narrow alley into the small and intimate ‘Triangle’ Square- dominated to the north by the most important building excavated so far, the West House. With little effort we can imagine ourselves in the plateia of a contemporary Cycladic town—something that shows how practical and enduring the design of settlements has been, with narrow, curving streets and small, open areas to break the force of the frequent winds. The West House presents an interesting façade: the low window-lights, just above the ground level, are sufficient to supply ventilation and light for the cool, lower-floor storage areas. At the right-hand end is an en trance doorway with a rectangular window directly beside it: this is a common feature of houses at Akrotiri. It was an enduring arrangement for what may have been a shopfront, and as such recalls the design of shopfronts in Pompeii and Herculaneum. The upper floor is dominated by the central, rectangular window, behind which is a large, ceremonial room; to its west are two rooms which were beautifully decorated. The murals which came from here and occupied almost every kind and shape of space, all partake of a marine theme: the two Fisher-boys Bearing Strings of Fish marched from opposite corners to a meeting point where the small, three-legged offering table, decorated with dolphins (in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Chora; see p. 32) was found by Marinatos. Above were a series of friezes depicting Marine and River Landscapes and a more detailed scene of what appears to have been a Naval Regatta which, even if we are unable fully to understand the nature of the event it depicts, provides through its extraordinary detail invaluable information on costume, architecture, boat design and fauna. These constitute the earliest ‘landscapes’ in European Art.
Another imposing house, Building D, forms the east side of the little plateia. It was from a small room on the far side of this house that the most bucolic of all the Theran paintings comes: the colourful Landscape with Lilies and Swallows (Archaeology Museum, Athens) which formed the backdrop to a ritual, celebrating the returning fertility of spring. The house had a grand entrance which was covered with a roofed porch, open to north and south, which encroaches on the public space, just to the south of the square. It was in the building beyond this that Spyridon Marinatos died while working on the excavations in October 1974. A small memo rial inside the building marks the spot.
Santorini Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, 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
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
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
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