Exploring The Validity Of The Statement That The Eruption Of Thera Caused The Downfall Of Minoan Crete

1778 words - 7 pages

Minoan Crete was a civilization experiencing great social and economic prosperity during its zenith around the time known as Late Minoan 1 (LM 1) (Sheppard Baird 2009). However the Minoan population ended abruptly and seemingly simultaneously 430 years later, this left archaeologists and historians searching for the cause (Castleden 1990, 143). The main reason archaeologists are studying the reason for the downfall is because if a date was known, a more precise historical timescale could be produced that would give a more accurate chronology of ancient history during this time (Barber 1990, 221). Ever since Sir Arthur Evans developed the concept of the Minoan civilisation, there have been many proposed reasons for the downfall, each with their own evidence and supporters (Sheppard Baird 2009). It was in 1939 that Syridon Marinatos, a leading 20th century archaeologist of Crete, initially suggested that the volcano Thera was the reason for the Minoans demise (Castleden 1990, 143). Many more hypotheses as to what caused the destruction have stemmed from this initial thought, such as tsunamis, economic and agricultural decline as well as foreign invasion. However due to advances in science and further studies into Thera and the Minoan’s history, this volcano no longer seemed the only plausible cause for the disappearance of Minoan Civilisation (Sheppard Baird 2009). Thera was located on the present day island of Santorini, 120 km north of Crete, and for hundreds of years there was little to no activity. It wasn’t until three and a half thousand years ago when the historic eruption occurred (Cecil 2011)(Ancient Greece org 2010). There were three phases to the eruption, first pumice was ejected which covered Akrotiri in a layer ranging from 0.5m to 5m thick, secondly there was a high projection of material into the air, and thirdly, and outward explosion (Barber 1990, 218)(Pyle 1989, 119). It is imperative to study the physical characteristics of Thera in order to critically assess whether it was the destructive force that caused the end of Minoan civilizations (Warren et al. 1991, 39). Since Syridon Marinatos first proposed that it was the eruption of Thera that destroyed the Minoans, successive archaeologists have excavated Crete looking for the further evidence that was needed to either prove or disprove his theory. Marinatos came to his conclusion because he found what appeared to be pumice and beach sand at Amnisos that, he believed, could only have traveled there by a tidal wave caused by the collapse of the volcano (Castleden 1990, 143)( Dominey-Howes 2003, 107). Nicolas Platon who was excavating in Zarko, was also convinced he found pumice and tephra ash on his site (Platon 1966, 178). It was also thought that the collapse of Thera into a caldera could have caused a Tsunami that destroyed the Minoans (Barber 1990, 218). Floyed McCoy, in his paper for the Geological Society of America in 2000, was convinced that it was a Giant wave which...

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