Santorini before the Late Bronze Age (Minoan) eruption

Ralf Gertisser A study by an international research team, co-authored by Keele's Dr Ralf Gertisser, shows how Santorini looked like before the Minoan eruption.

Around 1600 BC, a powerful volcanic eruption destroyed the island of Santorini, Greece, leading to the flooded caldera we see today. According to many authors, the eruption led or, at least, contributed to the decline of the Minoan civilisation. A study by an international research team, co-authored by Dr Ralf Gertisser, published in Scientific Reports, showed how Santorini looked like before the Minoan eruption. The pre-Minoan landscape of Santorini was shaped by another big eruption 22,000 years ago, the so-called Cape Riva eruption, which produced a caldera that was smaller than today, closed in the southwest and with only one small opening in the northwest with a narrow channel. At the centre of the shallow, flooded pre-Minoan caldera, a small volcanic island existed, similar in appearance to today’s Kameni islands. As this intra-caldera island was completely destroyed by the Minoan eruption, the team studied its remains preserved as pieces of lava in the Minoan tuffs. By determining the abundance and age of these lava fragments, the team found out that the pre-Minoan, intra-caldera island was about 2.2–2.5 km3in size and started to grow some 20.2 ± 1.0 ka ago, soon after the Cape Riva eruption. Whether the island still grew by the time of the Minoan eruption is uncertain. The study, published on 4 May 2018, has already received significant media attention, in particular in Greece, where it has been one of the first topics of many popular websites and news outlets.

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