Ashes from Santorini’s Cataclysmic Volcanic Eruption Found in Smyrna Excavation
Archaeologists in Turkey excavating the Ancient Greek City of Smyrna have made an important discovery according to Euronews. They have found volcanic ash from perhaps one of the greatest volcanic eruptions in history, which led to cataclysmic changes in the Late Bronze Age in the Mediterranean. Archaeologists are excited by the find of the ashes that are being linked to the famous eruption of the volcano at Santorini. The discovery of the volcanic debris is expected to increase our knowledge of one of the greatest eruptions in recorded history and its impact on local societies and cultures.
Bronze age 'Flotilla' fresco from room 5, in the west house at the Minoan town of Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece. Shows a town under the pyroclastic cloud of an eruption. (Public Domain)
In the late Bronze Age, approximately 3,600 years ago, a volcano on the island of Santorini, (then known as Thera) located in the Greek Cyclades erupted. It destroyed the urban settlement at Akrotiri, then a major Minoan trade center and important in the processing of copper. The volcano led to an earthquake and a tsunami that devastated the island of Crete. This is believed to have played an important role in the collapse of the great Minoan civilization, although this is disputed. The eruption on Santorini is believed to have caused a great deal of dislocation in the Mediterranean area and beyond and some believe that it even led to temporary catastrophic climate change.
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The ruins of Old Smyrna are now located near the modern city of Izmir on the Aegean Coast of Turkey. It was founded by the Aeolian Greeks and was later occupied by Ionian Greeks in the 11 th century BC. It was invaded and partially destroyed by the Lydian Kingdom in the 6 th BC. New Smyrna was founded by Alexander the Great and became an important city in the Hellenistic period and continued to be, right down to the Byzantine period. The city was occupied by the Seljuk Turks and was also a major Ottoman naval port, becoming known as Izmir in the twentieth century.
Smyrna among the cities of Ionia and Lydia (ca. 50 AD). ( CC BY-SA 4.0)
Old Smyrna has been excavated since the 19 th century and a new ambitious Turkish excavation was launched in 2007. Some 100 Turkish and International experts are taking part in the excavation. The project is the most comprehensive ever undertaken at the site and it has revealed many important findings. Professor Cumhur Tanriver, the head of the Smyrna excavation team, has stated that early Ancient Greek houses have been uncovered. This is allowing the experts to understand how the people constructed houses and early city-planning in the late Bronze Age.
- The precious remains of Akrotiri, an ancient city obliterated in the great eruption of Thera
- The ancient settlement of Akrotiri and the mass exodus of Therans
- Researchers in Turkey identify Bronze Age sea route and ancient shipwrecks
Ashes from Santorini have been found in excavations at Smyrna. (Image: Daily Sabah/AA)
Drilling work was carried out at the excavation by the project team, which is routine investigation work. However, the results of the drilling came as a surprise to all involved in the dig and beyond. According to the Daily Sabah, ‘ashes from the Santorini Volcano have been found’, indicating that Old Smyrna was impacted by one of the greatest eruptions in millennia. Experts collected specimens of the volcanic ash and they have been conveyed to the Geography Department of Ege University, for testing.
According to Tanriver, the ashes will allow experts to estimate the impact of the cataclysmic volcanic explosions on Old Smyrna. The continuing excavations will allow archaeologists to determine how the volcano impacted on the culture and society of Smyrna in the late Bronze Age and the ashes will also help experts to date developments in the Greek settlement.
The find is not only important because it enables the archaeological community to better understand the Santorini eruptions and its impact on Smyrna. According to Euronews, the find can show how the volcano, ‘affected the fate of the whole Mediterranean’. The discovery can help the experts to estimate the probable impact of the volcano on societies in the wider region in the mid- 2 nd century BC.
Ash Questions and Answers
The discovery of the ashes at the site of Smyrna may not sound exciting, however, they are very important. They show the extent of the impact of the Santorini volcanic eruption on the Aegean Sea and the wider Mediterranean. The find enables archaeologists to reconstruct, based on the continuing work at Smyrna, the nature of the cataclysm and how local societies adapted to the changed conditions after the massive eruption.
Top image: Impression of Santorini eruption. Source: 7reasons.net
By Ed Whelan