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Minoan culture survived volcanic eruption.

Minoan culture survived volcanic eruption

The Minoan civilization of ancient Crete literally rose from the ashes, accoding to new evidence. Advanced Minoan culture and its grand palaces disappeared around 1450 B.C. -- a collapse attributed by many researchers to a devastating volcanic eruption on the nearby island of Thera (now known as Santorini). But recent excavations on Crete indicate the Minoans rebuilt their dwellings on top of large quantities of volcanic ash soon after the Santorini blast.

"We have conclusive evidence for the survival of Minoan civilization after the [Santorini] eruption," says Jeffrey S. Soles of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, who conducted the excavations with Greek colleagues. He described the findings Dec. 29 at the annual meeting of the Archeological Institute o America in Boston.

Researchers had already begun to question the argument that the Santorini explosion triggered the Minoan collapse. Other investigators recently reported that seeds in Santorini's volcanic ash date to about 1600 B.C., 150 years prior to previous estimates of the eruption and the decline of the Minoans.

Soles and his colleagues are working at the site of Mochlos on the north coast of Crete, an island near mainland Greece. Their project represents the first systematic excavation at Mochlos since 1908.

Last summer, the researchers took a closer look at a domestic structure largely uncovered in 1908. Numerous examples of Minoan pottery dot the floor of the three-room house. Beneath the floor lies a layer of soft, grainy volcanic ash covering a 23-square-foot area, ranging in thickness from 2 to 8 inches.

"It appears the house was built on top of the ash immediately after the ash fell, thus sealing and preserving [the underlying ash]," Soles maintains.

The 1980 investigators dug around the ash but did not comment on it at the time and probably considered it unimportant, he adds.

The Minoan civilization rose to prominence between about 2000B.C. and 1450 B.C. It developed a sophisticated economy and traded extensively with nearby peoples. With the elimination of the Santorini eruptions as the major culprit in the collapse of the Minoan culture, an alternative theory now gains support: The Minoans may have been conquered by members of the Mycenaen civilization that emerged on mainland Greece around 1600 B.C.
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Author:Bower, B.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 13, 1990
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