The mid-second millennium B.C.E. volcanic eruption on the island of Thera (the modern tourist island Santorini) redefined Bronze Age history for the entire Aegean. Yiorgos Karahalis, REUTERS / March 27, 2000
The mid-second millennium B.C.E. volcanic eruption on the island of Thera (the modern tourist island Santorini) redefined Bronze Age history for the entire Aegean. One of the largest eruptions in the planet’s history, the blast not only destroyed the island’s highly artistic Minoan population at Akrotiri, but also had repercussions across the region. Archaeologists and scientists have debated the extent of the damage—theories range from localized crop failures to climatological phenomena witnessed in China, and the impact of the eruption would certainly have been felt across the ancient Near East. The explosion shaped the classical Greek conception of its own past, and some scholars equate Plato’s Atlantis with the island of Thera.
Akrotiri’s artistic and architectural heritage was well preserved by the volcanic eruption, giving it a reputation as the “Pompeii of the Aegean.” The site has been closed since a tragic roof collapse killed a tourist in 2005, but the construction of a new roof allowed the site to reopen last week. Thera is one of the best preserved archaeological sites in the world, and its centrality in understanding the Mediterranean Bronze Age has led to a great deal of fanfare surrounding the site’s reopening. The location on the idyllic tourist island of Santorini ensures that Akrotiri will quickly become one of the world’s most visited archaeological sites.
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