ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF AKROTIRI
A COSMOPOLITAN HARBOUR TOWN IN THE BRONZE AGE AEGEAN
Aiming at the confirmation of his theory, professor Spyridon Marinatos began the excavations at Akrotiri in 1967, opening a new chapter in the history of Aegean archaeology. The theory was that the decline of the Minoan civilization was due to the eruption of the Thera volcano.
Although these still ongoing excavations have refuted Marinatos’ theory, they have brought into light an immense volume of finds, the study of which has provided important information, very often leading to revision of many old views about the early history of the Aegean.
It is now an undisputable fact that the site of Akrotiri was inhabited since the middle of the 5th millennium BC. At the dawn of the 3rd millennium BC the small coastal settlement was already in the orbit of the Early Cycladic culture taking an active part in its formation. As the plethora of Early Cycladic culture and Akrotiri was developing into an important commercial port. In the late 3rd or the early 2nd millennium BC a major program of town planning promoted Middle Bronze Age Akrotiri into a great urban center of cosmopolitan character and to the sophistication of its culture.
Craft specialization and division of labor, which are reflected in the products of the material culture (pottery making, metalworking, shipbuilding) bear witness to the urban character of Theran society, a character which is confirmed by the multistoried mansions with their impressive sanitary, installations, rich household equipment and exquisite pieces of furniture. The unique wall paintings recovered from the ruins of these residences not only constitute an inexhaustible source of information about the daily life, activities and appearance of Akrotiri’s inhabitants, but are also works of high art. This art was enjoyed by individuals, citizens, the very creator of the wealth and the culture that generate it: merchants, sailors, artisans.
The great eruption of the volcano, round the middle of the 17th or 16th century BC, brought this thriving “bourjeois” society to an abrupt end.
Article by professor Christo Douma - Director of the Excavations at Akrotiri, Thera