Akrotiri - Minoan City on the Island of Santorini

The End of the Minoan Civilization

Akrotiri (Crete)
Akrotiri (Crete). Getty Images / DKAR Images

Akrotiri is the name of a small Minoan settlement located on the volcanic island of Thera (or Santorini) in the Aegean Sea. Occupied first in the late Neolithic period during the fourth millennium BC, Akrotiri grew to an important trade center during the middle and late Bronze Age, with an elaborate drainage system and a palace.

In the late 17th century BC, a series of earthquakes forced the abandonment of the town, and a good thing too: Thera erupted shortly afterward, covering the city in ash and splitting the island in two.

Akrotiri has been suggested as a possible origin of Plato's Atlantis legend; archaeologists are more interested in the effects the eruption had on the Minoan culture. Most recently, controversy has stirred over the precise date of the eruptions at Akrotiri, with both ice core and volcanic dates indicating that the volcano erupted about 1625 BC, or about 100 years earlier than traditional dates.

Archaeological Studies at Akrotiri

Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos excavated Akrotiri in the late 1960s and early 1970s; and then Christos Doumas took over. Most recent investigations have been focused on the wall paintings and decoration of pottery discovered at Akrotiri, particularly in the Cycladic period between ~2700-1600 BC.


This glossary entry is part of the About.com Guide to the Minoan culture and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Louis, Filippos I., Roger A. Clark, Ioannis F. Louis, and Makropoulos C.

C. 2005 Nondestructive imaging of small size voids at Akrotirinext term archaeological site, Thera Island, Greece, by seismic inversion techniques. Journal of Applied Geophysics 57(4):306-326.

Gertisser R, Preece K, and Keller J. 2009. The Plinian Lower Pumice 2 eruption, Santorini, Greece: Magma evolution and volatile behaviour.

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 186(3-4):387-406.

Manning, Sturt W., et al. 2006 Chronology for the Aegean Late Bronze Age 1700–1400 B.C. Science 312 (5773):565-569.

Zielinski, Gregory A. and Mark S. Germani 1998 New ice-core evidence challenges the 1620s BC age for the Santorini (Minoan eruption). Journal of Archaeological Science 25:279-289.

Sotiropoulou S, Perdikatsis V, Apostolaki C, Karydas AG, Devetzi A, and Birtacha K. 2010. Lead pigments and related tools at Akrotiri, Thera, Greece. Provenance and application techniques. Journal of Archaeological Science 37(8):1830-1840.