Bronze Age Thera

Report
and the eruption of Santorini
Places and People
Whole area:
known as Aegean
today
Thera (part of
group of islands:
Cyclades)
Akrotiri: major
centre & site of
excavations
Santorini: name
of Thera today
Crete
Minoans: the
civilisation of
people on Crete
Knossos: main
centre on Crete
Timeline
1450BC
1620BC or
1500BC
2000BC
• Minoan
civilisation
• First palaces
3000BC
• Settlement on
Thera
• Early Cycladic
culture
• Eruption of
Thera
• Destruction of
Knossos
• Collapse of
Minoan power
• Mycenaeans
occupy Knossos
The Archaeologists
Spyridon
Marinatos
(1901-74)
Began excavating Akrotiri (on the Southern tip o f Thera) in 1967
Discovered deposits of volcanic ash (tephra) up to 66m deep
Believed in a link between the decline of the Minoan centres on Crete and the
volcanic explosion which destroyed much of Thera in the 15th century B.C.
Christos
Doumas
Director of excavations after Marinatos’ death in 1974
Completed a major study of the Theran frescoes
The Sources
• Geological studies
(the eruption)
• Linear A
(undeciphered)
• Design & layout of
Akrotiri
• Artefacts
Physical
Archaeological
Written Texts
Pictorial
• Wall paintings
(frescoes)
• Scenes on
ornamental
artefacts, etc
Linear A
The volcanic eruption
Phase 1: column of ash carried 35km into
the atmosphere
Phase 2: Rain of pumice from this cloud
covered the island
Geological studies show
four phases occurring
over several days
Phase 4: magma comes violently into
contact with sea water ;the centre of the
island collapsed, forming 1100 foot cliffs
around a central lagoon (caldera)
Phase 3: 20 to 30 cubic kilometres of
magma (molten rock) ejected along with
hot dry avalanches of ash and pumice
Results and theories of eruption
Remains of Thera buried beneath a thick layer of ash and pumice (up to
70m deep)
Archaeological evidence (such as pottery) dates the eruption to 1500BC
Scientific methods suggests other dates, possibly as early as 1620BC
Neither dating method is conclusive (certain)
Marinatos believed the eruption would have caused tsunamis, destroying
settlements ships and harbours on northern and eastern coasts of Crete
He also believed volcanic ash falling on Crete would have damaged
agriculture for many years after the eruption
Design and layout of Akrotiri
Layout
• Long, narrow
section of city
excavated, running
north-south
• Large number of
buildings so far
uncovered
Construction
The town
• Carefully cut and
smoothed masonry,
called ashlar (or
xeste in Greek)
• Multi-storey houses
built of stones and
mortar, reinforced
with wooden beams
• Wooden staircases
• Windows providing
light and
ventilation
• Narrow, cobbled
streets
• Occasional small
town squares
• Drainage system
beneath the streets,
connected to
plumbing in the
houses
Artefacts
Pottery and stone vessels
Metal artefacts
Oil lamps
Mostly made of bronze
Pestle and mortar
Fish hooks, knives, sickles
and chisels
Vases
Lead balance weights,
bronze scale pans
Cooking pots/barbecues
Not many metal items
found
What do the artefacts tell us?
How people cooked
• Probably ground up crops with pestle and mortar
• Used pots (stewing) and barbecues (cooking meat)
Who used metal?
• Metal items were valuable. They appear to have been used for people’s livelihoods (their
trades)
Lifestyles
• Cooking implements were plain and functional
• Other decorated items are found eg: containers for pouring; vases
• Art/craft was important
What happened to people of Thera?
• No human remains were found
• No valuables were found
• Seems people had warning of eruption and fled the town
Frescoes
The Young Priestess fresco
1m high fresco of
female wearing a long, First thought to be
‘…seems to be moving
carrying
a
fig
pudding
heavy garment and
from Room 4 to Room
or
cake.
Finding
of
carrying a vessel
5 or vice versa, censing
similar clay artefacts
Thought by Marinatos suggest she is holding the house with some
aromatic substance’
to be a priestess
an incense burner
(Christos Doumas)
because of her
(brazier)
elaborate clothing
The Fisherman Fresco
Shows a young, nude, male
figure holding a bunch of
fish in each hand (7 in
right, 5 in left)
Hair is blue except for two
locks of black hair, one at
front and one at back
Nanno Marinatos believes
the fish represent an
offering to a god or goddess
Marinatos believed blue on
head used to represent
shaven head
Two fisherman in different
parts of the room, appear to
be walking toward a central
point and an offering table,
decorated with dolphins,
was found in that corner.
Hairstyles in the frescoes
Ellen
Davis
Nannos
Marinatos
“The Thera frescoes
present a set of pictorial
conventions that
distinguish six stages of
maturity from youth to
old age.”
Religious associations
Four stages of youth
indicated by different
hairstyles
Their nudity and shaven
heads indicate they
belong to a special group
associated with religion
The Miniature Frieze

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