and the Minoan Civilization
How could an entire civilization have been forgotten? A
civilization which had endured for over 600 years, and
constructed magnificent palaces, controlled trade across the waters of
the ancient world, produced advanced pottery, metallurgy, and
beautiful frescos. Yet it came to an abrupt end by forces unleashed
deep in the earth, one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in
history. This great civilization was forgotten by the world for
thousands of years. It is now being revealed by modern archeology.
Many scholars have proposed the idea that Atlantis,
portrayed by Plato in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias , may have existed in the
Mediterranean south of Greece. They identify the Minoan
Civilization as the fabled land of Atlantis. The Minoans thrived for
over a thousand years in the Agean, including a period of palace
building that lasted from around 2100 BCE to 1500 BCE. Sir Arthur Evans
was the first archaeologist to excavate at Knossos on Crete from 1900
to 1905 CE. "Minoans" was a term Sir Evans applied to this
culture, after the Greek account of the legendary labyrinth
of King Minos. The civilization
continues to be excavated on Crete and Thera ( Santorini ) today.
It was a
highly advanced bronze age maritime power with large sea ports and
harbors, well planned cities which included large palace complexes with
courtyards and gardens.
modern like advances in the buildings; indoor plumming, hot
water, toilets and complete drainage systems. Houses were
constructed with 2 or more stories, with winding staircases, light
colorful frescos adorning interior spaces, and picture windows. (
below image )
The art and
architecture created by these people made an impact not only regionally
the development of all Western European civilization. These
industrious people were skilled ship builders and sailors, and they
maintained a vast trade network across the eastern Meditterranean
making them a power which rivaled that of ancient Egypt. A
written language, called Linear A, has not yet been deciphered.
The four major sites on
Crete were Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, and Zakros. There were large
palaces at these centers, complex multi-storied edifices which
covered an area of several thousand square meters. The palaces
probably functioned as centers of trade, religion, administrative and
possibly political power. Products such as olive oil, grain,
wine, ceramics, and valuable metals were stored within storage rooms in
similarities existed between the Theran and Cretan building styles,
pottery and art. These comparisons demonstrate that both
and Thera were one remarkable civilization, and it was recognized as
throughout the ancient world. Minoan trade goods have been found
Old Kingdom of Egypt, copper rich Cyprus, Caanan, Cyclades, the
Levantine coast and Anatolia.
On Thera, Raos and
Akrotiri are sites which have been excavated and studied. Only a small
portion of Akrotiri has been uncovered, so there are many more
discoveries to be made there and at the other sites.. Akrotiri
started as a small fishing and farming village around 5,000 BCE. The
town grew rapidly after the third millenniun as trade flourished with
other Aegean peoples as seen in the artifacts from far away lands found
here. Trade established the city as a power in the region, and it
became a strategic location on the trade routes between Crete, Cyprus,
and other Agean islands. Around 2100 BCE an industry arose in
Akrotiri involving the production of bronze items which were imported.
led to a prosperity that culminated in the construction of planned
Was Atlantis on Thera? If it were, this would place the island as the
center of power in the Agean. It was most likely a power shared with
the cities on Crete. The geography of Thera gave it a natural harbor
which would have been the most extensive of that time for maritime
trade and strong naval presence. A fleet of ships is
evident in The Flotilla Fresco found in room 5 of the West House in
Akrotiri. This 39 foot long frieze style fresco went along three walls of the
room and shows a scene of sailing vessels. The ships are of
various sizes and there seems to be a celebration taking place. These
ships have covered passenger areas where the processional
participants are seated. A flagship carries persons of high
in colorful elaborate clothing. This painting indicates how
important sea navigation was to the Minoans. The power of their fleets
was such that there was no need for fortifications around cities. These
sea faring people relied on their ships for defense, and Thera had the
most remarkable ports of all the Minoan centers, and fleets of
ships were stationed here. The island's geography made it the ideal
location for major ports. It was an island within an island, a
circular inner one which was ringed with an outer island. There was an
inlet to the southwest in the outer rim where ships could enter from
the open sea to the inner enclosed lagoon. The two land forms were the
remains of an ancient volcano caldera.
Thera before the eruption
The flotilla fresco shows
this landscape, especially the city in the left portion. Here there is
a city which appears to be on a central island which is within the
arms of an outer mass of land separated by a narrow band of water.
These circular bands of land closely match Plato's description of the
area surrounding Atlantis.
Could this city be Atlantis? There are large buildings depicted on this
island. According to Plato's account, Atlantis was a city which was
laid out in a circular pattern, surrounded by three rings of the sea
and two land rings, with a channel connecting the inlets to the open
sea. There were ports where a multitude of ships were docked and a
causeway. It has been determined that Thera did indeed have this shape.
The caldera created a central island within a lagoon, which was
surrounded by an outer ring of land. Was the main island in the
center of Santorini the location of the capital city, the Metropolis as
described by Plato, the city of Atlantis? Was there an Atlantean
empire which extended across the Eastern Mediterranean or was this
power held jointly between Crete and Thera?
click to enlarge
The eruption of the volcano in 1628 BCE led to the destruction of the
Thera, and major damage to the cities on Crete. The Thera volcano
exploded with such force that the island where the central city was
located was vaporized. The evidence that this city existed is
there in the Flotilla Fresco from Akrotiri. The artist portrayed
large city with many multi storied buildings in colors reminiscent of
Plato's description. Plato described stones on Atlantis of white,
red and black. These rocks are found on Santorini and were used in
construction. Plato also tells us that many of the palaces were gilded
in gold. Many of the buildings depicted on the central island in
the Flotilla Fresco have a golden hue.
When the Theran volcano erupted, the
central city was obliterated, blown high into the upper atmosphere,
gone forever. The other cities on Thera were covered in ash, buried and
forgotten for centuries. The great cities on Crete suffered a similar
fate, as a massive tsunami swept over the island and fire balls rained
down from the sky. The great civilization could never recover to its
former glory. It was the end of one of the greatest civilizations of
(1885). The Secret
of Plato's Atlantis. Burns and Oates. p. 92. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
Druitt, T. H. and Francaviglia, V. "Caldera
formation on Santorini and the physiography of the islands in the late
Bronze Age". Bulletin of Volcanology, Vol. 54, No. 6, p. 484-493. 1992.
Peter (1995). The Sunken Kingdom. The Atlantis Mystery Solved.
Rainer W. Kühne (June 2004). "A location for
Paul Rincon (June 6, 2004). "Satellite
images 'show Atlantis". BBC News.
L. (1949). Lost Atlantis found again?.
Archaeology. 2: 159—162.
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