Third Pod from the Sun

Third Pod from the Sun

Escape from Thera

July 13, 2020

About 3,600 years ago, a colossal volcanic eruption blew apart the Greek island Thera, now the popular tourist destination known as Santorini. Falling volcanic rock and dust buried the Bronze Age settlement Akrotiri, on the south side of the island, preserving multi-story buildings, frescoes, tools, furniture and food, until archaeological excavations uncovered them in the last century, much like the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE famously buried Pompeii and Herculaneum. But unlike the Roman cities, Akrotiri has a notable lack of bodies.

Unlike Vesuvius, Thera’s volcano gave its inhabitants substantial warning. Minor eruptions sent a column of ash 40 kilometers into the sky and rained hot pumice on the island. University of Hawaii volcanologist Krista Evans says evidence of those precursory volcanic burps can be found within the archaeological site and in geological deposits around the island. The empty settlement implies the people left, but traces of their distinctive pottery and arts do not subsequently appear in the archaeological record on Crete or other nearby islands in their trading network. It’s as if they people just disappeared.

Evans explains how the people of Akrotiri likely fled south by boat toward Crete, 120 kilometers (75 miles) across the Mediterranean and what eruption models suggest may have been their fate.

This episode was produced by Liza Lester and mixed by Kayla Surrey.