Volcanic tsunami and the Minoans

Volcanic tsunami and the Minoans
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Posted by Greeka on 17 May 2004

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The volcanic eruption which occurred on Thera, sometime around 1500 BC, located just about 100 kilometers from the island of Crete, which was the hub of activity for the Minoan civilization, is believed to have been the cause of the wipeout of the entire Minoan civilization. What many do not know is that the volcanic eruption actually caused two phases to be put into action: the first phase was the eruption itself and it was followed by the second phase, which was initiated due to the collapse of the volcano's cone into the sea. This is believed to have occurred mainly due to the immensity of the eruption, which caused large amounts of volcanic material to be ejected, thus emptying out the cone, leading to its collapse. 

This eventually led to a large amount of water receding into the sea, which then ultimately caused a tsunami of great magnitude. The waves of the tsunami are estimated to have been at least 15 meters to 30 meters high, which tells us a lot about the impact of the tsunami on the island. This violent tsunami must have devastated the Minoan civilization to a huge extent, though scientists today are questioning whether this led to its complete collapse. This is mainly due to evidence which has come forth due to studies of more recent tsunamis, such as the one in Indonesia in 1883, which resulted in colossal loss of life and property. Though large amounts of damage must have occurred, mainly to coastal Minoan civilizations, the interior remained much in order and most likely recovered from the catastrophe. This has been indicated even during the Indonesian tsunami, wherein coastal regions were completely devastated but the interiors managed to get life back into order. With the discovery of clay tablets, which indicate that the Minoan civilization survived at least 50 years after the tsunami, the theory that the Minoan civilization did survive the tsunami is starting to gain weight.

When British scholar, Joseph Alexander McGillivray started research on how the Minoan civilization ended, he found evidence which suggests that the tsunami was quite powerful, destroying the front portions of most houses in its wake. Another significant factor was the fact that very little ash was found on Crete, which leads us to believe that the wind had in fact carried most of the volcano's ash in the opposite direction. But the most intriguing of all finds was the town of Arkotiri, where the entire town has been preserved entirely, but no skeletons have been found on the island as yet. Though some archaeologists believe that no one in the town survived and that their skeletons are buried quite deeply, the issue is up for debate.

Another one of the directing factors is that unlike what was once believed, that the entire Minoan civilization was under the rule of a single king, whose seat was believed to have been uncovered at Knossos, is the discovery of evidence that the Minoan civilization was actually divided into independent units. This fact encourages the belief that the civilization was not concentrated on the coasts, but was also spread into the interiors, which were run by individual administrations or kings. This ensured that despite heavy losses at the coast, the Minoan civilization still prevailed. Due to such staunch evidence, many scientists now date the actual destruction of the Minoan civilization to another era altogether, supporting the fact that the Minoan civilization did in fact manage to survive the powerful tsunami.

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