New dating of the explosion of Santorini confused the death of the Minoan civilization

(ORDO NEWS) — One of the largest eruptions in terms of volume of ejected material in the last 10 thousand years was given by the Greek volcano Santorin. It was with him that the fall of the first highly developed European civilization was long associated. It looks like it wasn’t that easy.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, archaeologists have believed that the Minoan civilization that arose in Crete and nearby islands around the middle of the 4th millennium died due to a volcanic eruption, which led to the release of large amounts of ash, and due to the subsequent devastating tsunami. It happened around 1500 BC.

The city of Akrotiri (on the island of Thira, where the Santorini volcano erupted) was completely buried under a layer of ash – 1600 years before Pompeii. And the Minoan palaces on the northern coast of Crete were swept away by the tsunami.

New dating of the explosion of Santorini confused the death of the Minoan civilization 2
The map shows the locations from which the data for the new statistical modeling were taken

Around the 1970s, the results of radiocarbon analysis of samples from Santorin appeared. They threw the chronology around which scientists had built theories for half a century into chaos. According to them, the eruption occurred about a hundred years earlier.

But this dating was not very compatible with the results of archaeological excavations, which stubbornly testified: the Minoan civilization quite existed for itself this “controversial” century.

Then historians suggested that people helped the eruption: Crete and its subordinate islands were conquered by the Mycenaeans, representatives of the Achaean tribes from mainland Greece. Naked Science explained why this hypothesis does not quite correspond to reality.

Also, radiocarbon data did not fit well with ancient tree rings: the latter showed that the cooling as a result of the eruption began even earlier. We wrote about how we solved this problem here.

He offers his own dating of the Santorini eruption – much narrower than in previous studies.

Manning considered that the radiocarbon analysis in the case of Santorin cannot be considered completely reliable, since volcanic emissions of carbon dioxide could pollute fossil samples with a ratio of carbon isotopes atypical for the Earth’s surface. And it is not at all clear how this can be taken into account in the study.

The author of the work decided to date this event using a new statistical model he created. In it, he included not only the results of radiocarbon and dendrochronological analyzes, but also data on other regions of the Aegean Sea, hundreds of kilometers from Santorini, which survived the consequences of the tsunami caused by the volcanic eruption.

In addition, he drew attention to the importance of the short but clearly observed time interval between the departure of the city of Akrotiri and the eruption itself, and incorporated this previously overlooked limitation into the model.

“Archaeologists have repeatedly noted that there is a short period of time between how the city of Akrotiri was abandoned by people, and how he was buried under a meter layer of pumice formed as a result of the eruption.

Despite the fact that several hectares were excavated, not a single human skeleton was found, so it is obvious that people were warned of the impending danger and left, ”the work says. This picture differs sharply from those known to us from Pompeii and Herculaneum.

New dating of the explosion of Santorini confused the death of the Minoan civilization 3
According to the layer of ash that covered Akrotiri, archaeologists found buildings, ceramics, even frescoes – but no remains of the victims of the eruption

Modeling has determined the most likely range of eruption dates: around 1609-1560 BC (probability – 95.4%) or even 1606-1589 BC (probability – 68.3%).

This is the time of the so-called Second Intermediate Period in the history of Ancient Egypt, when the Hyksos – a dynasty of Canaanite origin – controlled Lower Egypt (the northern part of Egypt). It is known that the Minoans actively traded with the Egyptians.

The new chronology, on the one hand, synchronizes the civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean, on the other hand, it gives rise to a host of new questions.

For example, it is not entirely clear how objects that historians attribute to the New Egyptian Kingdom (the period after the Second Intermediate Period begins in 1550 BC) turned out to be under the ashes in Akrotiri.

Also, if Manning’s dating is correct, it is not clear what destroyed the Minoan palaces in Crete and other islands, because this happened much later.

However, the author of the work believes that the results of his statistical modeling only indicate the direction in which historians should work. “In this case, the answer seems to lie between the original position and the radiocarbon data pointing 100-150 years earlier.

Hopefully this new analysis, based on a large data set, should be more applicable to the archaeological and historical field in general. It changes the historical context, but at the same time does not try to take everything far beyond the [usual] framework, ”the work says.

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