Classics Lecture 5, 6

Classics Lecture 5, 6 - Lectures 5-6 The Eruption of Thera...

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Unformatted text preview: Lectures 5-6 The Eruption of Thera & the site of Akrotiri I: Thera & Atlantis: Myth and Archaeology II: Vases & Volcanoes: Relative & Absolute Chronology The names of Thera or Santorini • Thera derives from Theras, son of Autesion, who colonized the island with his fellow Spartans • Kalliste (the most beautiful), Strongyle (the round one) • Santorini = Venetian name for island, after the chapel for St. Irene • Akrotiri (from Greek word for cape/promontory) • Excavators: Spyridon Marinatos, Christos Doumas • Caldera Thera (Therasia, Aspronisi, Palaea Kameni, Nea Kameni); Kalliste and Strongyle Mt Etna (Sicily) from the space-station, during a minor episode Iceland volcanic eruption (photo taken April 7, 2010) Ash closes European airports April 15, 2010 Big eruption conventionally dated middle of the 2nd millennium B.C. • Intersection of the European and African plates • 197 B.C. eruption: Strabo (I.3.16): “between Thera and Therasia fires broke forth from the sea and continued for four days, so that the whole sea boiled and blazed, and the fire cast up an island which was gradually elevated as though by levers and consisted of burning masses – an island with a stretch of 12 stadia in circumference” • The island thus created was called Hiera (“Sacred One”) = today’s Palia Kameni • Later islands: Theia (“Divine”) appeared in A.D. 19 • Another island appeared from the depths of the sea in A.D. 726 • A.D. 1570 Mikra Kameni (“Small Burnt One”) was formed • Another eruption took place in A.D. 1650 under the sea • Later volcanic activity between 1701 and 1711 resulted in the formation of Nea Kameni (“New Burnt One”) • Islets appeared, disappeared, and sometimes reappeared in the eruptions of 1866-1870, 1925-6, 1928, 1939-1941, and 1950 The caldera and Nea Kameni The otherworldliness of Palaia & Nea Kameni Thera eruption traditionally set at ca. 1450 B.C. • Cross-linking the Aegean relative chronology with that of Egypt • Professor Marinatos’s theory • Tephra studies (=volcanic ash) & stratigraphy • Radiocarbon dating • 14C half-life = 5730 years • Dendrochronology, tree-ring analysis combined with 14C dating • Greenland ice cores (volcano fallout trapped in the ice cores of Greenland) • We will return to dendrochronology and Greenland ice cores Traditional or conventional chronology Cross-linking with the Egyptian sequence Radiocarbon dating As for radiocarbon dating: • The beauty of carbon is that it exists in almost all organic matter • Carbon has three isotopes, of these, only 14C is unstable • It disintegrates in the environment to produce Nitrogen 14 • This radioactive decay proceeds in a regular way • Time taken for half of the atoms of a radioactive isotope to decay is the half-life. After one half-life, there will be half of the atoms left; after two half-lives, ¼ of the original quantity remains, & so on • The half-life of 14C is 5730 years (for Uranium 238 it is 4,500 million years; for others a minute fraction of a second) • Problem: a lot of old carbon in Thera • As for the eruption, this is what happened: Pompeii Premise (essentially, people had the opportunity to escape) The legend of Atlantis • Story of Atlantis orginally set down ca. 350 BC by Plato • Estimated books on the subject: 2,000-10,000! • Two dialogues: • Timaeus and Critias • In both it is Critias who relates the tale as he heard it from his grandfather, who had heard it from the legendary Solon Atlantis • • • • • • • • • • • Situated beyond the Pillars of Herakles, in the Atlantic Larger than Libya & Asia combined Island created by Poseidon to protect his lover Kleito It had two zones of land alternating with three zones of water Central island provided with two springs of water, one cold & one hot Rich soil provided abundant food; a kind of proto-paradise Five sets of twin boys born to Poseidon & Kleito Atlas the eldest; Atlantis named after him Atlas the first king Peace & prosperity reigned. Among the special laws of Atlantis: Its kings “were not to take up arms against one another, & they were all to come to the rescue if anyone in any of their cities attempted to overthrow the royal house.” Plato’s ideal society According to Plato’s Critias: • For many generations power, peace & prosperity reigned since its inhabitants • “…were obedient to the laws….But when the divine began to fade slowly, and became diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture.…they then began unable to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly….and Zeus….perceiving that an honorable race was in woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on them that they might be chastened and improve, collected all the gods into their most holy habitation, which, being placed in the center of the world, beholds all created things. And when they had called them together, he spake as follows…” • At this point Critias’ dialogue ends. But one can understand the end of the story from the passage in Timaeus: • “….But afterward there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable & impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island” • This mighty & marvelous empire perished in a single day & night, some 9,000 years before Solon (who lived about 600 BC) • Whether fact or fiction, some believe in the account, others don’t: two opposing camps & many saw in the Thera eruption an echo of the story • Aristotle pointed out that Atlantis was a creation of Plato’s imagination • Is it poetic fantasy, with a moral, or is there a kernel, at least, of truth??? • Platonic moralizing • But before we get into absolute chronology, let’s look at the site of Akrotiri Bronze Age settlement at Akrotiri Akrotiri Xeste 2 (unexcavated) Section B (Beta) Section Beta: Antelopes and boxing boys Section Beta (monkeys) Section Δ (Delta) Section Delta Section Delta Spring Fresco (one room) Spring fresco House of the Ladies House of the Ladies Papyrus or Lotus House of the Ladies Xeste 3 Xeste 3 Men, women, procession Lustral basin Xeste 3 males Xeste 3 saffron gatherers Xeste 3 Saffron gatherers Xeste 3 females Xeste 3 The West House Telchines’ Road (Square) West House West House Room 4 toilet & flowers frescoes Ikria? Hair styles as symbols/markers of age (rites de passage) Nilotic scenes (east) Peak sanctuary, tripartite shrine, sacred grove, shepherds & Mycenaean-looking warriors; shipwreck (north) Epic cycles in prehistory? Shipwreck Mycenaean boars’ tusk helmet A Tale of Two Cities (Regatta) (south) Left city surrounded by Nilotic landscape Details of left city “Regatta” with dolphins Dolphins & ship’s insignia Right city, very “Minoan/Aegean” in its general outlines Note “mountains” in the distance Akrotiri Let’s get back to Knossos and Minoan Crete Knossos Old Palace Period 1925-1725 B.C. New Palace Period 1725-1380 B.C. • Kamares Ware • Middle Minoan • Earliest wheelmade pottery in Crete • Spans both the Old and New Palace Periods Kamares Ware Late Minoan IA (1550-1500 B.C.) Floral Style (new dark-on-light) Late Minoan IA (1550-1500 B.C.) Pattern Style Late Minoan IB (1500-1450 B.C.) Marine Style Late Minoan II (1450-1400/1375 B.C.) Palace Style (associated with Mycenaean phase) Destruction of Knossos & Minoan Palaces • Latest pottery in all the Minoan Palaces before the destruction was LM IB Marine Style • Essentially, LM II “Palace-Style” is largely limited to Knossos • LM IB Marine Style was assigned an absolute date in years by cross-linking the Minoan sequence with the well-established Egyptian historical sequence • On this basis, the date of LM IB Marine Style and hence the destruction of the Minoan palaces was set around 1450 B.C. Thera eruption (ca. 1450 B.C.) problematic (no LM IB Marine Style pottery at Akrotiri) • Professor Marinatos • Tephra studies (=volcanic ash) & stratigraphy - ongoing • Radiocarbon dating • 14C half-life = 5730 years • Problems arise with old carbon and trees that are old • Mean date for grain from Akrotiri 1615 B.C. (date range 1630-1530 B.C.). Three samples, one problem • Dendrochronology, tree-ring 16281626 B.C. Date good, but it is Thera??? (California & Ireland) • Greenland ice cores – Dye 3 site – 1645 B.C. (acidity problematic) • Chinese Bamboo Annals 1618 B.C. (Shang Dynasty) Hatshepsut • 1508-1458 BC • Fifth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty (daughter of Tuthmosis I) • Consort, Tuthmosis II • Co-regent with her son. Tuthmosis III (Thutmose) • Probably became Pharaoh in 1479 • Became Maatkare • Extraordinary measures • What made her pharaoh??? Chinese Bamboo Annals 1618 B.C. (Shang Dynasty) • The tree-ring and ice core date of 1628-1626 BC has been linked, at least by one scholar, to the same event that ushered in the Shang dynasty in China. It was written in the Bamboo Annals for 1618 BC, I quote: • “Yellow fog, a dim sun, then three suns, frost in July, famine, and the withering of all five cereals.” End of quote • The Chinese evidence is not entirely secure as to its date, the Annals having been found, lost, and then recovered, and the question of the Shang dynasty and its dates really depends on one line in the text. But what the Annals record are phenomena that are symptomatic of a large volcanic eruption, such as that of Thera, which, like Krakatoa, must have had a global rather than a purely local impact • 1613 BC is the new dendro-date from Akrotiri • 17th century date virtually accepted a few years ago (problems with radiocarbon & with acidity of the ice cores). Sturt Manning “This is it!” • Whatever the exact date for the eruption of Thera, it was a momentous event and a landmark in Aegean prehistory. After about 1500 BC the decline of Minoan Crete becomes more apparent and the rise of the Mycenaeans more evident Deukalion’s Flood • Son of Prometheus • Zeus sent a deluge to destroy the era of Bronze • According to the chronology of St. Jerome, the deluge belonged to the reign of Thutmose II or III, either 1525 or 1460 (conventional date) • Latest theory: eruption begins April 30, 1500 BC • Followed by LM IB rebuilding after the tsunami • Great era of Minoan art and Linear A tablets ...
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This note was uploaded on 02/20/2012 for the course CLASSIC 51a taught by Professor Papadapolous during the Spring '12 term at UCLA.

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