General observations on prehistoric Thera
Progress in excavation, because of the constant threat of collapse, has been slow. It is estimated that perhaps as little as one thirtieth of the overall extent of the site has been explored so far. no temple, or building dedicated uniquely to cult, has yet been discovered; nor any evidence of fortification or protective walls. In fact the often exceptionally broad windows of the houses so far uncovered suggest a kind of architecture which did not urgently take into consideration the possibility of external aggression. Any general observation about a site such as this will have to be modified continually as our knowledge is enhanced by the new discoveries being made; but we can begin by giving provisional impressions elicited by the nature of the settlement and its art, in comparison to others of the same or later periods:
*Society: the considerable mercantile prosperity and high standard of living, with municipal services such as central drains and sewers beneath the streets, suggests a degree both of distribution of wealth within the society and of civic cooperation and social organisation amongst its various levels and elements.
*Economics: the wealth of imported objects, contraed with the island’s presumed paucity of export able, home-grown agricultural goods, suggests that Bronze Age Therans were middle-men who lived off trade, commerce and shipping rather than production of primary materials: in other words, that the long-lasting Greek tradition of shipping as a major source of wealth goes back into this area’s earliest history. As evidence of the importance of commercial exchange, it should be noted that half of the to tal number of examples of early stirrup-jars—the typical receptacles for transporting liquids such as wine or oil— that have been unearthed in the Aegean area come from Akrotiri; similarly, two thirds of the commercial balance-weights found in the Aegean also come from these excavations.
*External relations: from the unfortified architecture,the paucity of warrior’s objects found, and the general lack of emphasis on martial themes in paintings, we might wish to infer the unusually non-aggressive nature of its society.
*Visual art: both the pottery decoration and the magnificently clear and vigorous wall paintings give a vivid sense of a confident, creative, civilised and, above all, colourful world, as different from the ponderous, martial world of the Mycenaeans on the one hand, as it was from the more artistically conservative and protocol-bound world of Egypt on the other. The high proportion of empty space to figurative element in Theran painting is a deeply significant trait, revealing a freedom and clarity of thought. Evidence from the murex shells found, and from the scenes of crocus-picking depicted, suggest this was a world enlivened by purple and gold.
Santorini Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.