6 November 2014

Santorini ashfall and Akrotiri

Posted by Callan Bentley

Santorini is an island with nice exposures of the Tethyan subduction complex, yes. But did you know there’s also a volcano there? 🙂

Here’s a shot of some snorkelers, with a lovely stack of pyroclastics rising up behind them. Ash, lapilli, more ash — Santorini’s volcano has been very active over the years.


This is a prodigious quantity of volcanic material.


In the year 1627 BCE, the eruption of Santorini’s volcano burped up a nice bolus of lapilli and ash, and smothered the town of Akrotiri, on the south coast of the island. Today, you can visit the ruins of this town in one of the best-preserved Minoan archeological sites anywhere. Like Pompeii, it’s a lovely blend of history and volcanology:



It is also plausible that the sudden “wiping Akrotiri from the face of the Earth” may have been inspiration for the mythology of Atlantis. Certainly it marked the demise of the Minoan civilization.

The development/preservation of the site is extraordinarily well done, from my perspective. A roof has been raised over the whole town, spanning many acres of ruins.



3500 years ago, during the Bronze Age, there were people like you and me living in these rooms, walking on these steps…


And then, one bad day, it all ended…



Stream gravel deposits (much coarser and better sorted) followed by colluvium, overlie the volcanic sequence at Akrotiri, and this is preserved in the stratigraphic record of the nearby hillsides:


Nature keeps working, doing her thing, and we can get out of the way or be buried and forgotten. The sense of a lost civilization was palpable to me at Akrotiri. I’m grateful the site was discovered and excavated – it was a fascinating insight into the ancient clash of volcano vs. humanity.