Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Crete Quakes, Thera Rises

Two powerful earthquakes jolted the island of Crete in southern Greece today. There were no casualties.

The tremors came 90 minutes and some 200km apart, first a magnitude 5.6, then a 4.3. Both originated relatively deep - about 20km under the sea bed - yet they were strongly felt in the coastal cities of the island of Crete. 

It was precisely there that the ancient Minoan civilisation was ended 3600 years ago by a massive volcanic eruption on the island of Thera or Santorini, 110km north of Crete. That volcano is acting up again. A British-led seismological survey published in Nature Geoscience says that as much as 20 million cubic metres of molten magma have flowed upwards in recent months, lifting the island about 14cm. That’s the biggest magma flow since 1955, when the island last erupted.


  1. Dear John, it's not the case that the Minoan civilisation was ended by the Theran eruption, at least not directly. The volcano erupted in LM IA in ceramic terms -- the absolute date is disputed -- and the Minoan palaces (with the exception of Knossos) were destroyed in late LM IB. No matter which absolute dates you use, however, there is a difference of over 50 years between the eruption and the destruction of the Minoan palaces.

  2. Thank you for that. Obviously archaeology has made new extrapolations since I last visited the subject. Is there any connection between the eruption and the demise?

  3. Perhaps. The strongest link between the eruption and the demise of Minoan culture has been made by Jan Driessen and Colin Macdonald in a 1997 book ("The Troubled Island") and a series of articles. One of the latter is available online ( Most scholars, I think, would not see the eruption as having a direct impact. It really depends on what caused the destruction of (most: not Knossos!) the Minoan palaces in LM IB.


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