Today, one can see traces of heavy objects having been moved imprinted on the ash and tufa. This tells us that some of the inhabitants must have stayed on the island until the volcano started to erupt.
Even these people, however, since their skeletons have not been found, must have left Thera at some point. Professor Spyri-don Marinatos, who was in charge of the excavations at Akrotiri, called these people troglodytes, people who lived among the ruins. Christos Doumas, another archaeologist, believes that they formed a team who were attempting to repair the damaged buildings. The length of time that elapsed between the earthquake and the eruption of the volcano is not known. However, it must have been at least a year. Scientists have deduced this from the fact that some seeds left in the ruined houses after the earthquake had begun to sprout when the first ash started to fall from the erupting volcano.
The whole island was buried under a thick layer of tufa, which at many points is over thirty metres deep. Huge chunks of basalt were thrown from the crater with such force that many of the houses at Akrotiri were struck by them. The intensity of the explosion must have been tremendous. The material thrown up from inside the cone of the volcano, which was in the centre of the island, appears to have created a huge vacuum inside. The crust of the earth collapsed and the larger central portion of Strongyle was sucked down into the vacuum. Eighty-three square kilometres of earth vanished into the abyss of the crater, which had a depth of 800 111. The sea rushed in and flooded the spot, which had once been dry land. All that remains of Strongyle today is Santorini, Therasia and Aspronisi. This catastrophe of truly inconceivable proportions must have been accompanied by enormous tidal waves which, according to the experts, could have reached a height of 2J0 metres at the start before slamming against the shores of the Aegean with indescribable fury. The ‘three-clay night’ of Heracles and myths from Attica, the Ar-golid, the Aegean islands and Lycia are probably nothing more than echoes from the memories of people who had lived through this incredible disaster and who were attempting to wrest some meaning out of the ensuing phenomena. For days on end, darkness must have reigned and day was turned into night. The volcanic ash that spewed forth must have fallen on the earth within a huge circumference, charring all vegetation.
Santorini Map With Cities Photo Gallery
As a means of understanding the dimensions of the devastation that occurred, we can take the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, in the strait of Suncla between Java and Sumatra. In that eruption, 22.8 square kilometres of the island were blown up and then sank to a depth of 200-300 metres. Witnesses’ reports are mind-boggling, the scale of the disaster inconceivable. For several months the ports near Krakatoa were unapproachable by ships. Ash covered the sky for a distance of 150 kilometres, and there were tidal waves 30 metres in height which struck many parts of Sumatra with unbelievable force and swept away an entire city on nearby ]ava. An estimated 30,000 people w’ere killed. With this information in mind, we can perhaps form a picture, albeit blurred, of what happened when prehistoric Strongyle blew up in what was, as far as we know, the most violent explosion in the history of the earth: for example, the crater left after the eruption was four times the size and depth of that of the island of Krakatoa.
The phenomena that accompanied the explosions and sinking of the cone of the volcano and the finding of pumice during his excavations at Amnis-sos in Crete, in 1932, led Professor Spyros Marinatos to formulate a new theory. According to him, the decline of the Minoan civilization around 1500 BC was the result of the blow dealt by the frightful consequences of the eruption of the volcano on Santorini. The tidal waves must literally have shaved the shores of Crete, where stood not only the palace of Cnossos but also those of Mallia and Zakro along with many other important towns. The interior of the island must have been badly damaged by the strong seismic tremors which shook the whole region. This theory has not been accepted tin reservedly because the dating of samples of Minoan pottery places the decline of Minoan civilization at least fifty years after the eruption of Santorini. For many scholars, this means that the Minoans were brought clown by some other cause. Nevertheless, what seem almost certain is that the effect of the eruption of the Thera volcano on all of the Aegean, including Crete, must have been horrendous.
Between 1500 BC and 1950, the volcano of Santorini came alive on a total of fourteen occasions, erupting with varying degrees of intensity. The first eruption was in 197/196 BC, and it led to the formation of Palaia Kammeni, the island which the ancient Greeks called Hiera. In 1573, fresh sections of dry land appeared, joining with Mikri Kammeni and forming the volcano as we see it today: Nea Kameni.
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