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Covered in volcanic ash, just like its Italian counterpart Pompeii, the Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri, located on the south side of Santorini, was once the main port of the Aegean and a busy urban hub. When a series of severe earthquakes rocked the town in the 16th century BC, its inhabitants fled – and for good reason. An explosive volcano erupted, reportedly the largest for 4,000 years and the island lay covered, and the settlement hidden under volcanic ash.
When locals found artifacts in a quarry in 1867, French geologist began the beginnings of excavation, followed by German archaeologist Baron Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen who uncovered the ancient Greek site of Thera, dating to 15th century BC. It wasn’t until investigative archaeology revealed the sheer size and scale of the site, and the lost city emerged from the volcanic debris.
As the dig delved deeper, more was uncovered about the settlement – its position was discovered to be an important sailing and trade route between Crete and Cyprus, and fragments of copper, pottery, craft, paved streets and drainage point to a developed and civilised settlement. This all came to an end with the devastating volcano which literally wiped the town off the map.
Markers of Cycladic culture come in the form of delicate and intricate frescoes, which are amazingly well-preserved. Using mineral paint, the frescoes depict life at the time including flotillas of boats, spring flowers and birds.
Today, visitors can walk through the excavated settlements, and admire the objects, pottery, frescoes and artwork which give an inspiring sensation of what life might have been like nearly 4,000 years.