The settlement was one of the major cities and ports of the Aegean during the Middle and Late Bronze Age (20th-17th century BC). It was a crowded city of 20 acres with a remarkable social structure, public roads, sewerage, sanitary engineering, multi-storey buildings.
The buildings of Akrotiri are a unique example of impressive architecture. Magnificent structures with carved facades housed communal services. Private houses included workshops and warehouses besides the rooms for the family. The building materials came from the island itself or were imported from other areas. Stone from the quarries of Thira was the main building material. Pebbles and gravels were collected and used for walls and floors. Valuable timber from Crete was used for wooden frameworks in the walls providing antiseismic reinforcement. Slabs of plaster from Knossos quarries were placed on the floor over a layer of crushed purple shells. Know-how and good taste were obvious in every activity.
5000 vessels of various types and sizes, tools, figurines, ritual objects and furniture that came to light during the excavations testify the great development of the settlement. Food left-overs and bones of animals help us reconstruct the nutritional habits of the inhabitants. Impressive frescoes, the oldest samples of monumental painting in the Hellenic world, decorated almost all the building complexes providing us with valuable information about the society of Akrotiri through their narrative character.
Severe earthquakes forced the inhabitants to abandon the city in the last quarter of the 17thc.BC.The departure took place in an organized and methodical way. The old walls collapsed. Piles of stones were gathered in areas where they would not obstruct circulation, ready to be reused. The big vessels were placed under the doorways, so that they would be well protected. The desire and the hope to return were obvious .The valuable objects left with the inhabitants who abandoned the town. The absence of human skeletons on the site proves decidedly that the inhabitants had time to abandon the settlement. More probably they abandoned the island as well. Perhaps the disaster caught them gathered in an open space or even in the port trying to save themselves and their belongings. The biblical volcanic eruption that followed did not make it possible for them to return in Santorini, but it offered to the scholars a great amount of evidence about the Aegean world and the sea- trading settlement of Akrotiri at its peak.
By Ioanna Kassapaki
Licensed tourist-guide - Archaeologist