Extent of the Santorini Eruption's
The Bronze Age eruption of Santorini (Thera) with a VEI (Volcanic Explosivity Index) of seven was one of the largest
volcanic events in recorded history. At this time there was a terrible destruction of Minoan Crete that so weakened them
that they were soon conquered by the Myceneans some decades later.
Minoan Miniature Frieze Admirals Flotilla Fresco
Late Bronze Age (LBA), Late Minoan I Period
The West House, Room 5, South Wall
Akrotiri, Santorini (Thera), Greece.
Over the years some have proposed that a huge tsunami(s) generated by the massive eruption was the primary cause for the
destruction of Neo-Palatial Minoan Crete. This hypothesis assumes the great majority of the Minoan population lived on
mountainous Crete's vulnerable low-lying northern and eastern coastal plains. When the tsunamis struck they decimated the
Minoan population and left Crete essentially depopulated. In order to examine the veracity of this hypothesis two questions
must be asked.
What does the archaeology say about the distribution of the Neo-Palatial Minoan population on Crete?
What is the maximum possible extent of tsunami run-up and inundation on the northern and eastern coasts of Minoan Crete?
In order to provide a solid foundation for the population distribution on Crete the Neo-Palatial archaeological sites listed in the Aegean Minoan 3D GIS Project are included in this mapping. The best tsunami model so far put forth for the Santorini eruption is from the 2008 publication:
Bruins, MacGillivray, Synolakis, Benjamini, Keller, Kisch, Klugel, and van der Plicht. "Geoarchaeological tsunami deposits at Palaikastro (Crete) and the Late Minoan IA eruption of Santorini", Journal of Archaeological Science 35, pp. 191-212, 2008.
It proposes that the tsunami produced at the volcano had a +35 to -15 meter initial amplitude and a crest length of about 15 km. By the time it reached the coastlines of Crete it would have, depending on the shape of the seafloor near the coast and other factors, had variable wave heights ranging from negligible to 26 meters (85.3 feet).
Computer modeling of the wave's runup on land is strewn with complexities making field work very important. No accurate mapping of the tsunami inundation of Minoan Crete has yet been published. As a reasonable alternative this mapping highlights the island's inland elevation contour of 40 meters (131 feet) above sea level along its northern and eastern coastlines. This should give a good indication of the maximum possible extent of penetration and destruction caused by a 26 meter high set of tsunamis. The 40 meter elevation contour line is nothing more than a crude, but reasonable, approximation of the maximum worst-case runup limit on such a wave's ability to flood the coasts of mountainous Crete. As soon as an accurate map of the Cretan inundation is published I will include it here.
Having effectively addressed the above two questions regarding the tsunami destruction theory, this mapping strongly contradicts it by conclusively showing there is absolutely no archaeological evidence for a large concentration of Minoan settlements in Crete's vulnerable coastal areas. In fact the pattern of archaeological sites shows that the population was distributed throughout most of inland Crete especially in the central and eastern regions. The urban centers of Knossos, Archanes, Phaistos, and many others were completely untouched! The great majority of the Minoan population would have survived any tsunami destruction from the Bronze Age eruption.
This is not the first time the tsunami theory has been refuted for its unfounded assumptions as the primary cause for the Minoan destruction.
Minoura, Imamura, Kuran, Nakamura, Papadopoulos, Takahashi, Yalciner. "Discovery of Minoan tsunami deposits", Geology, V. 28, No. 1, pp. 59-62, January 2000.
Whatever the true nature of the Minoan destruction was, the tsunamis produced by the Santorini eruption could only have been a relatively minor component of the overall event. It is time to move on from this deeply flawed and archaeologically unsustainable hypothesis and begin to more closely scrutinize other scientifically valid possibilities. One of which I proposed in a paper written for the Thera Foundation in 2007.
The Minoan Catastrophe: The Pyroclastic Surge Theory
Another publication relevant to this subject was released earlier this year.
The Bronze Age Eruption of Santorini and Late Minoan IB Destruction Event
The hypothesis that a volcanic tsunami(s) was the primary cause for the destruction of Neo-Palatial Crete can only be supported in dreams that defy the laws of physics. I would sincerely appreciate any comments that anyone may have.
If you already have Google Earth setup on your computer all you need to do is download the GIS mapping below but if not
you will need to download the free version here:
With Google Earth downloaded, installed, and working properly on your computer you are now ready to download the GIS mapping
Once downloaded simply open it and Google Earth will automatically start up and display the mapping from a great
elevation. You can grab the map and move it anywhere you wish by holding down the left mouse button. There are three
controls on the upper right of the screen. The top one is for tilting and rotating. The middle one is for panning and the
bottom slider is for zooming in and out. Just position an area of interest in the center of the screen and zoom in to see
the map's detail. The latitude, longitude, and elevation of your mouse position is displayed on the bottom of the
screen. The numbers shown on the right of some list entries below are elevations in meters.
Minoan Crete Neo-Palatial Archaeological Sites
Knossos - Little Palace
Knossos - Royal Villa
Malia - Epsilon House
Zakros - House A
Kommos - North House
Mochlos - House C
Palaikastro - Building One
Petras - House One
Pseira - Plateia House
Tylissos - House A
Amnissos - House of Lilies
Ayios Georgios (Prophitis Elias)
Kastelli - Pediada
Myrtos-Pyrgos - Villa
Syme - Building S
Vasiliki - Villa
Malia - Mu Quarter
Tylissos Pyrgos 670
Sissi - Kephala Hill
W. Sheppard Baird
September 1, 2008
Copyright © 2008 W. Sheppard Baird
All Rights Reserved