We travel to Santorini – known in ancient times as Thera – a volcanic island some sixty-nine miles north of Crete. Here lies an extraordinary city, hidden beneath the trappings of the modern day world. Our story revolves around the determination of one man, a Greek archaeologist called Professor Spyridon Marinatos. Having realised that there had been a volcanic eruption of huge significance, perhaps the greatest cataclysmic event in world history, some 3600 years ago (1450BC), Marinatos’ exploratory archaeological digs outside Akrotiri revealed an extraordinary lost city, buried under metres of volcanic pumice and ash, preserved immaculately for thousands of years.
Of particular interest is the Admiral’s house, where we find a host of frescoes, one of which especially catches Gavin’s eye. It portrays a fleet of huge ships just returning to harbour.
Before us is what amounts to a stolen moment in time: a snapshot of an entire Bronze Age ﬂeet, looking just as it did when it sailed into harbour 3,500 years ago.
To Gavin’s trained eyes, it seems possible that at least three of the eight vessels in the ‘admiral’s fresco’ look as if they could cross an ocean. There is so much realistic information on the frieze that you can even see the number of oars they had, work out the type and efﬁciency of the sails, and estimate the sailing capacity of the ships.
The Thera foundation (click below to view Akrotiri frescoes):
Christos Doumas: “…In the last 400,000 years there have been more than 100 eruptions on this island, each adding a new layer of earth and rock, slowly making the island bigger. The last of these truly catastrophic eruptions came 3,600 years ago…”
Bruins, MacGillivray, Synolakis, Benjamini, Keller, Kisch, Klugel, and van der Plicht.
‘Geoarchaeological tsunami deposits at Palaikastro (Crete) and the Late Minoan IA eruption of Santorini’, Journal of Archaeological Science 35, pp. 191–212, 2008.