Friday, February 3, 2017

What did happen after the Late Bronze Age meta-eruption of Thera???

The mega-eruption of the volcano on the island of Thera (modern Santorini) in the Late Cycladic I period which buried the settlement of Akrotiri on the south coast has produced spectacular architectural and material culture remains as well as generated many hard-fought controversies. The two most prominent revolve around the absolute date of the eruption (“high chronology” = later 17th century BC vs “low chronology” = late 16th century BC) and the nature and the effect of the tsunami caused by the collapse of the caldera. The resurrection of the myth about the destruction of the lost continent of Atlantis has also muddied the waters for many ancient history buffs.

On Crete the evidence of destruction deposits and/or layers of pumice at some sites on the northern and northeastern coasts of the island, dating to early in the Late Minoan IA period, have led to speculation on the natural phenomena that could have caused this archaeological evidence. The mega-eruption of Thera to the north and a resulting tsunami are the usual suspects in most narratives.

On Wednesday, February 8th at 19:30 in the Library of the Canadian Institute in Greece Prof. Floyd McCoy (University of Hawaii at Manoa) and Dr. Tatyana Novikova (National Observatory of Athens) will give a lecture entitled, Tsunami and the LBA Eruption of Thera”.

As they will argue, the tsunami generated by the Late Bronze Age mega-eruption of Thera has served as a foundation for fanciful descriptions of enormous waves, illusory sedimentary deposits, extravagant cultural impacts, and more. A better understanding on the formation, magnitude, and impact of seismic sea-waves comes from an awareness of tsunamigenic mechanisms associated with mega-eruptions, of oceanic wave dynamics, in addition to historic observations of tsunami. These factors combined with the latest computer modelling provide an improved foundation for estimating tsunami wave characteristics generated by the Late Bronze Age mega-eruption within the Aegean Sea. With these related sources of data in hand there are ample grounds for a better basis for understanding potential impacts on Minoan cultural activities at the time of the eruption and immediately afterwards. The takeaway here: the “truth” is not as fun as we once fantasized, but the reality is very enlightening.

As this is a very popular topic, one should come early to get a seat!

David Rupp

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