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Excavations of Akrotiri

Excavations of Akrotiri is one of the most important and well-preserved prehistoric settlements of the Aegean.

Archaeological researches had already started in the 19th century. The eminent Greek archeologist Spyridon Marinatos started the excavations in Akrotiri in 1967, in order to prove his theory that the collapse of the Minoan civilization was due to the massive volcanic eruption of Santorini. He went on until his death in 1974, when the archaeologist Christos Doumas took over and till today he continues his work with remarkable results.

The prehistoric city of Akrotiri was the center of a brilliant civilization that reached its heyday between 1550-1500 BC. It was inhabited from the Neolithic Age to 1500 BC, when a devastating eruption destroyed everything. The wealth and the quality of houses bear testament to the city’s prosperity and a flourishing way of life. The sophisticated houses were spacious, multistoried, made of stones and mud and they were accordant to the Cycladic architecture. The upper stories had large windows and imposing murals, whereas the basements were used as storerooms and workshops. Along the city, there were narrow, stone-paved streets, squares and an elaborate drainage system.

All the glorious edifices and objects that were excavated imply that the island had external relations. As it is indicated by the pottery and the style of their art, the residents of Akrotiri had trade relations with Crete but also with the Dodecanese, mainland Greece, Cyprus and probably Egypt and Syria. Important factors for their prosperous economy were the agriculture, animal husbandry, fishery and shipping. The residents’ occupations as engineers, architects, town-planners, builders and even artists also become clear from the excavations. Their crops included wheat, barley, legumes, olives and vineyards and they exported wine, metals and volcanic rocks. The residents were also occupied with beekeeping and, especially women, with weaving and saffron collection.

The high standard of living allowed inhabitants to express their artistic skills and talent. This is evident from the numerous vessels and murals that have been discovered. Pottery and painting were two extremely developed arts in the prehistoric Akrotiri. Besides the imported vessels that came mainly from Crete, archaeologists have found a variety of vessels made from locals, in all sizes, shapes and colors, for both domestic and aesthetic use. The murals constitute masterpieces but also a valuable source of information about the way of life back then. They were found in large and small walls, doors and windows and they depict nature, religion and everyday life. The technique they used is the fresco, a technique of mural painting executed upon freshly-laid or wet lime plaster. In their technique as well as in the themes, it seems that they had been influenced by the Minoans.

This thriving society of Akrotiri had an unfortunate end, in 1613 BC. One of the most powerful eruptions worldwide, which was the aftereffect of a major earthquake, buried the entire island in volcanic ash and pumice and sunk a big part of it. Basalt boulders hit the buildings of Akrotiri and the remains of the settlement have been preserved thanks to the volcanic ash. As a consequence, life on Santorini and its nearby islands was completely destroyed. This dreadful eruption also led to the creation of the caldera and the three islands; Santorini, Therasia and Aspronisi that used to form one big island before the eruption. The consequences of this event, which affected the whole world, were so terrible that the catastrophe of Santorini has been identified with the engulfment of Atlantis.

Until today the excavations have revealed only a part of the prehistoric settlement. Nowadays, the archaeological site of Akrotiri, which lies on the southwestern tip of Santorini, gives visitors the opportunity to admire and walk through the sheltered settlement. Furthermore, significant finds from Akrotiri are exhibited in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira, such as pottery, jewelry, marble figurines, tools, utensils and impressive wall paintings. Some famous frescoes can also be admired in the National Archaeological Museum, in Athens. A visit to the museum but, more importantly, to the archaeological site of Akrotiri constitutes a unique experience and can transfer visitors to the distant past.

Quick info
Excavations of Akrotiri is located in Akrotiri
13 km from airport (Kamari) 9 km from port (Athinios)
11 km from capital (Fira) 9 km from Perissa beach

Location of Excavations of Akrotiri

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