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Eruption at Thera and Minoan Civilization’s Downfall


The fact is that the matters of the downfall of the Minoan Civilization are the central issues of interest among lots of scholars. The confirmation of a violent end through fire and demolition is clear, but the clues to what caused such destruction have been elusive.

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It will turn to be obvious that the history of the idea of Knossos and the account of its excavation is essential background components, which will require to be explored before the Bronze Age architecture and archaeology of the location can be unravelled and reconsidered. The re-examination takes a properly trident shape. Three key theories exist for the downfall of the civilization after the volcano explosion – and they are argued and estimated against the archaeological indication from the island itself and the increasing number of confirmation about the origins of Bronze Age Cretan culture in general.

But talking on the matter of theories, it is necessary to mention, that all of them are interconnected, and to some extent are mutually complementary.

Comparison of the Theories

Unfortunately, no written records exist of the Minoan outbreak of the Bronze Era. In accordance with Greek myths, the Destruction of Atlantis or the Battle of the Titans occurred in the Seventeenth century B.C. admittedly, it is filling in to suppose unrealistic and beautiful legends, but contemporary science can clarify it much more rationally. Scientists can precisely extrapolate what happened around 1600 B.C. There was a huge volcanic explosion on Thera, which is now generally referred to as the Minoan eruption. Today it is possible to study the technical, environmental, and cultural components of the eruption with modern knowledge of volcanology, volcanic ash remnants, archaeological excavations, and ancient Greek myths of Atlantis. (Barber, 1987).

Bicknell was one of the first to suggest that the eruption of Thera, along with the related consequences, was the reason for the catastrophe. The hypothesis states that the earthquakes obliterated the palaces, tsunamis drowned the fleet and peers of the Minoans, and the volcanic ash of Thera plastered the whole island annihilating agricultural fields and stifling animals. (Bicknell, 2000).

Many geologists have states that the Thera eruption was of an immense scale, and the consequences described by Bicknell were quite probable. Others have opposed it. Recent data locates the mass of the ash leaves of the volcano to the East carried by the easterly jet streams of the geographic area, with a small impact upon the island of Crete.

The largest blow to this hypothesis came in 1987 from the researches performed at the Greenland ice cap. Researchers dated frozen ash from the Thera eruption and made the conclusion that it occurred in 1645 BC, some 150 years before the final obliteration of the Minoan palaces. (Barber, 1987).

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Nonetheless, the tsunamis and earthquakes caused by the Thera eruption could have still brought much physical harm to the Minoan fleet and infrastructure, and it would have influenced the climate, the financial system, and the political management of the region. Nevertheless, it is suspicious that it could have reasoned in itself the downfall of the Minoan civilization. After all, the Minoan community had displayed delicate reactions in its past history when it recoiled from other physical catastrophes to raise its culture to even superior extents. So why did it not recover after the devastations of 1450 BC? (Warren, 1991).

Another aspect that might have promoted the downfall of Minoan society is the incursion and occupation of Crete by the Mycenaeans. Their documented assault took place around 1400, and in mixture with the consequences of the Thera outbreak offers a likely set-up for the concluding destruction of the Minoan civilization. In this hypothesis, the Minoan fleet and ports were demolished by the 50-foot waves and were never reconstructed. Probable climatic transformations influenced yields for the long period, which as a consequence could have led to a financial breakdown and social disturbance. Against this backdrop, the foreign aggressors from Mycenae presented the final to an impressive culture that had been prospering for 1600 years. (Griffiths, Hancock, 2000).

One question still stays open. How did the dwellers of Mycenae get away from the consequences of the volcanic eruption, when the Minoan civilization was brought to its knees by them? Taking into account the topography of the Aegean, and also including the horror of the volcanic eruption of Thera, it is hard to realize how the Mycenaeans who were just as helpless were able to conquer the destruction, while at the same time they were capable to protect (or reconstruct) their fleet and to arrange a striving trip to conquer the vast island of Crete.

The matters taking into account the obliteration of the Minoan civilization loiter precariously as the historical evidence do not offer a strict reply, and it is these determined matters which have mantled prehistoric Crete with an atmosphere of seductive fascination.

The Minoan eruption destroyed the nearby Minoan settlement at Akrotiri on Santorini, which was buried in a covering of volcanic ash. It is suggested that the eruption also hardly impacted the Minoan population on Crete, nevertheless, the scope of the consequences is seriously discussed. Early hypotheses offered that ash fall from Thera on the eastern half of Crete strangled off plant life, leading to the starvation of the local inhabitants. Nevertheless, after deeper field studies, this theory has lost reliability, as it has been stated that no more than 5 millimetres of ash fell anywhere on Crete. Other assumptions have been offered grounded on archaeological verification detected on Crete revealing that a tsunami, likely connected with the eruption, assaulted the coastal regions of Crete and may have harshly destroyed the Minoan coastal settlements. (Zielinski, Germani, 1998).

Essential Minoan remnants have been found above the Thera ash layer, stating that the Thera eruption did not result in the instant downfall of the Minoans. As the Minoans were a sea power and depended on their maritime and merchant vessels for their livelihood, the Thera eruption really caused essential financial damages to the Minoans. Whether these outcomes were enough to start the breakdown of the Minoan civilization is under powerful arguments. The Mycenaean defeat of the Minoans happened in the Late Minoan II period, not a long time after the eruption, and lots of archaeologists conjecture that the outbreak encouraged a disaster in Minoan civilization, which permitted the Mycenaeans to defeat them effortlessly.

Some researchers have stated the confirmation for exceedance of carrying capability by the Minoan civilization. For instance, archaeological revival at Knossos offers clear confirmation of deforestation of this part of Crete near delayed stages of Minoan enhancement. (Griffiths, Hancock, 2000).

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Within the restrictions of current dating, what can be regarded as that the Minoan civilization which has been hollowed out on Crete penetrated a long age of refuse which corresponds with the emergence of a spirited sea-going culture that had its authority grounds in mainland Greece. Such a transformation in the stability of provincial power could be regarded as the effect of the deteriorating of Cretan civilization by the outbreak. Human history is an incessant statement of flourishing chased by the downfall of financial and military authority. In this case, the regional centre of gravity can be regarded to move, but it is hard to identify an essential shift in the cultural curve of the district. To determine these matters it would be significant to offer the clear confirmation of both the environmental collisions of the eruption and confirmation of inherent susceptibility to these instruments in the Minoan culture, which are lacking at the current time.

It is necessary to add, that there is little proof of flood damage on the island’s ports. At Molochos on Crete, the ash layer is clearly under the Lower Minoan ceramic level. This is significant evidence that the eruption predated the devastation on Crete.


In conclusion of the cultural impacts on the Minoan civilization, it is easy to be led to suggest that the eruption took out a great, maritime Bronze Age civilization like the tales of Atlantis. But surely, the present state of knowledge about the Thera outbreak shows that is now true. It turns to be that the eruption and obliteration of palaces on Crete being within decades of one another is only an accident. There can be an assumption about the fact that the volcanic event could have weakened the Minoans on Crete for assault, but this cannot be confirmed today.


Barber, R.L.N., 1987, The Cyclades in the Bronze Age, Duckworth, London, 218-23.

Bicknell, P.J., 2000, Minoan Marine Ware and the Thera Eruption, in W.G. McGuire,

D.R. Griffiths, P.L. Hancock and I.S. Stewart (eds) (2000) The Archaeology of Geographical Catastrophies Geological Society, London, 95-103.

Castleden, R., 1990 The Knossos Labyrinth, Routledge, London.

Page, D. L., 1970, The Santorini Volcano and the Desolation of Minoan Crete.

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Warren, P. M., 1991, The Minoan Civilisation of Crete and the Volcano of Thera, Journal of Ancient Chronology Forum 4 29-39.

Zielinski, G. A. and M. S. Germani, 1998, New Ice-Core Evidence Challenges the 1620s BC age for the Santorini (Minoan) Eruption, Journal of Archaeological Science 25, 279-289.

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