The Greek island of Santorini, traditionally known as Thera, experienced one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the Holocene epoch, most likely between 1609 and 1560 BCE, according to a new analysis by Sturt Manning, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences in Classical Archaeology.
One of the largest volcanic eruptions in the Holocene epoch – as measured by the volume of material ejected – occurred on the Greek island of Santorini, traditionally known as Thera. It is considered a pivotal event in the prehistory of the Aegean and East Mediterranean region, with the city of Akrotiri, buried some 1,600 years before Pompeii, becoming one of the key archaeological sites of the second millennium BCE. That much is uncontested.
Archeologists in the early 20th century posited the volcano erupted around 1500 BCE, during the Egyptian New Kingdom period, and created a history around this assumption. But beginning in the 1970s, advances in radiocarbon dating have thrown that timeline into chaos, with many experts insisting the eruption happened as much as 100-plus years earlier.
Sturt Manning, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences in Classical Archaeology in the College of Arts and Sciences, is hoping to settle one of modern archaeology’s longstanding disputes. By parsing the available data and combining it with cutting-edge statistical analysis, he has zeroed in on a much narrower range of dates for the eruption: approximately 1609–1560 BCE, during the preceding Second Intermediate Period of Egypt, when the Hyksos – a Canaanite-origin dynasty – controlled Lower Egypt. While not yet a precise date, to the year, for resolving the big-picture question of the correct historical period, the finding clarifies many years of debate.