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Ancient Apocalypse: Mystery of the Minoans

I'm always on the lookout for interesting documentaries about volcanoes, the ancient world, lost civilizations, etc.  And since I'm a sucker for anything having to do with the Aegean Bronze Age, I was happy to find this little gem on YouTube.

There's some great material here that I'd never seen or read before, such as Akrotiri director Christos Doumas's theory on exactly where the people of Akrotiri sought refuge while awaiting rescue by sea; he had mentioned the idea of a Theran Herculaneum boathouse scenario in another documentary, but this is the first time to my knowledge that he's identified an actual site.

I should point out that the main researcher, who's trying to identify the "mystery" of what happened to the ancient Minoans, bugs me, because it's absolutely no mystery what happened to Thera in the 17th century B.C.

A few years ago, PBS's Secrets of the Dead featured Knossos expert Sandy MacGillivray and specialist Costas Synolakis presenting the same material; Synolakis makes an appearance here, too, with his tsunami model.  And several decades ago, archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos theorized that a massive tsunami hit the north coast of Crete as a result of a volcanic eruption on Thera, and found evidence of it at Amnissos.

The documentary concentrates on evidence found at Palaikastro, near Zakros, mostly because, unlike Amnissos, which is on the outskirts of Herakleion, Palaikastro isn't near any densely populated centers, and there's more evidence on the ground.  Eastern Crete was badly hit by the Theran catastrophe.  From other sources, I can tell you that ash fell heavily on that part of the island, which was also in the path of the final pyroclastic surge cloud; there is evidence of sudden conflagration at the palace of Zakros.  Thera contributed to the long-term depopulation of eastern Crete.  However, the documentary focuses almost entirely on the damage caused by the tsunami.

From the statistics given, especially considering the size of the caldera, the estimate of the volcanic aerosols thrown into the atmosphere, and the estimate of the period during which the eruption affected the weather, it's possible Thera was a greater event than Tambora in 1815, which is considered the largest volcanic eruption in historic times.

Dating the eruption isn't as straightforward as it's made to seem.  There's debate among experts between the older, 1628 B.C. radiocarbon date, which is based on ice core samples, tree ring data, and the dating of an olive branch considered to have died around the time of the eruption; and a younger, 1500s B.C. radiocarbon date, based on the chronology of various Aegean, Egyptian, and Near Eastern artifacts found at Akrotiri dated to long after 1628 B.C.  Volcanic eruptions have a unique chemical signature, but the signature from the Greenland ice sheet doesn't quite match Thera; it may have come from a major VE6 eruption of the Alaskan volcano Aniakchak.  The tree ring evidence from North America, Ireland, and Sweden could also be linked to Aniakchak.

Digital Knossos

Ignore the title of this video; it has nothing to do with the Santorini volcano. But it's a great digital model of the final phase of the Knossos temple complex.

Be aware, though, that all those polythyron openings would have been fitted with doors, so some of the interiors would have been darker than what's shown.


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Knossos North Entrance Reconstruction

A wonderful, but too short, digital reconstruction of the North Entrance of the Knossos Labyrinth, which features in "Minoa," Chapter Six of Knossos.

Make sure you watch with the sound on.  The music is beautiful and evocative.

I hope that the maker of this video will produce other video reconstructions of other parts of Knossos.

Ancient Hairstyles

Forensic hairdresser Janet Stephens has some lovely videos demonstrating ancient Roman and one ancient Greek hairstyle.  Now if she would only attempt some Mycenaean or Minoan hairstyles.

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