Santorini volcano eruption 3,500 years ago hit the Turkish coast

Plato probably did not invent everything in his evocation of Atlantis in two of his works. Since the discovery, from the end of the 1960s, of the ancient city of Akrotiri, buried under tons of ash south of Santorini, it has become certain that this Greek island in the Aegean Sea had been torn apart, in the Bronze Age, by a volcanic eruption considered one of the most violent in history.

This Plinian-type eruption, similar to that of Vesuvius which buries Pompeii, caused a lot of projections of ash and distant pumice stones, of which archaeologists continue to find traces throughout the Mediterranean area. The cataclysm was such that it marked the gradual collapse of the Minoan civilization which appeared around 3,100 BC, in Crete, a hundred kilometers south of Santorini.

This civilization had flourished in the Aegean in part thanks to its maritime domination. But its fleets were shattered in the ports and several coastal cities were devastated, such as Palékastro, in eastern Crete, where researchers had already put forward, a dozen years ago, the hypothesis of a tsunami in two huge waves.

Four tidal waves

Strangely, no victim of these disasters had been able to be exhumed so far, not even in Akrotiri: experts believed that earthquakes preceding the eruption had fled its population to other islands or that the volcano had “Charred” its inhabitants.

In this context, the article published on December 30, 2021 in the American scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), brings important new elements. Its main signatories – Vasif Sahoglu, professor of archeology at the University of Ankara (Turkey), and Beverly Goodman Tchernov, who heads the department of marine geosciences at the University of Haifa in Israel – claim to have demonstrated that the eruption of Thera (l ‘old name of Santorini) had serious consequences not only in Crete, but also 200 kilometers northeast of the volcano, near Tchesme (Çesme, in Turkish), on the Turkish coast of the Aegean Sea, about 70 kilometers west of Izmir.

View of the site and excavations of Tchesmé.

Excavated from 2009, this site, occupied since the third millennium BC, included several buildings, roads as well as traces of Minoan influence, through the pottery found in particular. The researchers first discovered “A layer of well-preserved volcanic ash and a horizon of chaotic destruction made up of stratified deposits”. As part of an interdisciplinary collaboration with a dozen Turkish, Israeli and Austrian experts, they carried out archaeological and sedimentological analyzes (X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, analysis by instrumental neutron activation, granulometry, micropaleontology and radiocarbon dating). Their conclusion is that at least four tidal waves have devastated the site.

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