Thera And The Downfall Of The Minoans
Posted 01 April 2009 - 08:47 AM
The sudden disappearance of the Bronze Age Minoan civilisation on Crete has often been blamed on the eruption of Mount Thera on the island of Santorini - one of the most violent volcanic eruptions on record.
The event spread ash over hundreds of miles and has been credited with phenomena ranging from the myth of Atlantis and the Biblical plagues of Egypt to the failure of harvests in China around the same time. But precisely dating the eruption has proved controversial; archaeologists have tended to settle on an approximate estimate of 1500BC.
Groundbreaking research by ORAU, in a NERC research project led by Dr Stuart Manning, then at Reading University, helped change that. Published in Science in 2006, the work involved the radiocarbon dating of 127 samples from digs in the eastern Mediterranean to refine the accepted chronology, proving with 95 per cent confidence that the volcano eruption happened somewhere between 1613BC and 1600BC.
The results closely match those of another team, published in the same edition of the journal. The discovery of a small olive branch buried in ash on Santorini allowed the second team to produce another dating series, suggesting (again with 95 per cent confidence) a date between 1627BC and 1600BC.
The results are of wider historical significance, because they disprove the idea that Minoan culture was closely linked with the New Kingdom of Egypt. Instead, Minoan civilisation would have been reaching its zenith at around the same time as the early Hyskos dynasty.
The results are likely to mean the whole chronology of the period has to change; well-known shaft graves found by Schliemann, the nineteenth-century rediscoverer of Troy, must be far older than previously assumed.
SOURCE: The Dating Game
Posted 01 April 2009 - 09:40 AM
Posted 03 April 2009 - 06:32 PM
I think many of the current knowledge about the Minoan Civilization is going to change in the future. I watched a documentary recently with scientists showing evidence that the Minoans suffered huge losses from a series of tsunamis created by the Santorini volcano in approximately 1600 BC.
The whole north coastline of Crete was affected by the tsunamis, but the Palace of Knossos was far from the coast and it survived the tsunamis. The same applies to Phaistos Palace. Unfortunately all coastal towns and the majority of the Minoan ships were destroyed.
The destruction of 1450 BC was probably due to a war, perhaps by the invasion of Myceneans who found the opportunity to attack the weakened population of Crete.
Posted 04 April 2009 - 06:04 AM
I wonder how old the documentary was because this theory has been discarded long ago by the archaeologists. The theory of the devastation of Minoan Crete by earthquake shocks, being buried by pumice from the Thera volcano eruption and soon after swept away by 50 meter tsunami waves was in favor in the 1970’s. One of the articles that I have seen putting forward this theory is “Thera and the Devastation of Minoan Crete: A new interpretation of the evidence” by J.V.Luce published in 1976. (American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 80, No. 1, pages 9-18), but I have also glanced at some others with the same theory, from the same era, when I was looking at this topic.
Over the last ten years though, studies by geologists and volcanologists that I have seen argue against such a theory on a number of points, the main ones being that he volcanic ash that fell on Crete was not more than 1 to 2 cm and mainly fell on the far eastern parts of the island, due to the seasonal wind direction. The tsunami theory again has not been proven by archaeological evidence of building destruction, and it is believed that any waves that might have reached Crete did not go much inland, but would have certainly caused some significant damage to the Minoan fleet that might have been anchored there.
From an archaeological viewpoint, it is argued that the damage caused around that period (1600 BCE) was related to earthquakes and fires associated with the collapsing of buildings. Evidence of rebuilding of settlements after this event indicates some recovery, but most probably not at the previous level of economic strength. This might have led to infighting between city states, general weakening of the Minoan civilization and the eventual takeover by the Mycenaeans who, for yet to be determined reasons, had abandoned the Peloponnese.
Two books that I have support this view. Oliver Dickinson in his 1994 book (I have the 1999 updated reprint) “The Aegean Bronze Age” says on page 304: “The eruption of Thera…certainly did damage to some Cretan sites…But there is no indication that it caused any long-term deterioration in Minoan society, and it must be certainly be dissociated from the destruction, and often subsequent decline or abandonment, of so many Second Palace Period sites of importance, especially in Crete..”. Similarly Lesley Fitton in her 2002 book, “The Minoans” says on page 121: “The extent of its [the eruption of Thera] effect on Crete has been much debated. Once it became clear that Thera could not have caused the extensive destructions of LMIB that brought an end to neopalatial Crete, the tendency was to downplay any destructive effect on the island. Clearly the theories of huge sea waves flooding and damaging the northern coastal sites had to be abandoned, nor did the ash-fall on the island’s eastern end apparently amount to much.”
Hopefully you can understand why I am mystified about this revival of the old theories.
Posted 04 April 2009 - 03:54 PM
the documentary I mentioned is very recent. I have it as an avi file, so I must find a way to upload it and share it with you. I will let you know once it is ready.
Posted 02 May 2009 - 09:12 AM
Thank you for putting the documentary link on your website and also for your introductory article. Having watched the video, read the transcript of the video and your article, I have found no facts in the program that would contradict the position that I put to you in my message of the 4th of April.
The video is aimed at a broad audience interested in semi-historical programs of a sensational nature (e.g. Blackbeard’s Lost Ship, Aztec Massacre, Escape from Auschwitz, are some other videos in the same series, The Secrets of the Dead) and therefore cannot be considered as serious scientific research. There are just too many hyperbole made by the narrator, to take this program seriously, such as his concluding remark that “A wave that washed away an empire is strikingly reminiscent of a mystical city that sank beneath the waves.” This was after watching the program that accepted that there was a 150 years period between the tsunami from the Thera eruption and the destruction of Knosos by the Mycenaeans, but provided no credible storyline of how this occurred. And unfortunately there are also many historical inaccuracies that a scientific program would not have had. Linear A has not been deciphered, as far as I am aware, although there have been various theories put forward that have not been accepted to date by the scientific community. And Plato did write that the story of the Atlantis came from the Egyptian priests when he visited Egypt, so the narrator is off the mark when he said that “the origins of Plato’s story have never been identified”. McGillivray’s comment, at the end of the program, that “This is a major discovery now..” is rather farfetched given that these issues (ash deposit distribution, tsunami damage, building collapses) have been studied and debated extensively during the last 30 years amongst scientists specializing in these fields. So, I believe, there is very little new in the findings presented in this video for someone that has been following developments in this field to get excited about. From a scientific perspective, I believe, the program is flawed because the narrator’s text was not scrutinized to ensure that scientific accuracy prevails over sensationalism. But then the program’s aim was to satisfy an audience that is interested in sensational stories rather to present the story with the caution that scientific research often requires.
Nevertheless, it is a pleasant video which unfortunately does not advanced the scientific knowledge about the collapse of the Minoan civilization one iota.
Posted 16 May 2009 - 09:58 AM
As with any "theory" there must be educated guesses and supposition and then it is updated as new information becomes available.
Thanks for making the info available Yiannis