2003 Seattle Annual Meeting (November 2–5, 2003)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 1:15 PM


MCCOY, Floyd W., Natural Sciences, Univ of Hawaii-Windward, 45-720 Kea'ahala Rd, Kaneohe, HI 96744, fmccoy@hawaii.edu

One of the major disasters in human antiquity, the Plinian eruption of Thera (Santorini) in the Late Bronze Age (LBA) ca. 1630 BC/BCE, destroyed an island that was at the core of a Cycladic culture in the southern Aegean Sea. New data indicate that this eruption was huge, far more explosive than previously thought (VEI=7.0 or more). Ground zero for this gigantic eruption was Thera and its inhabitants. The pre-eruption topography of the island has been recreated based upon criteria and inferences from: (1) sedimentological characteristics of the eruption deposit, inferred mechanisms of transport/deposition from these characteristics, and suggested vent placement/migration during the eruption, (2) exposures and samples of the pre-eruption landscape – topographic relief/elevations, soils, fossils - in both outcrops and wells, (3) geophysical surveys imaging the buried LBA landscape beneath the tephra deposit, and (4) indications of the LBA landscape depicted in wall paintings preserved at the archaeological site of Akrotiri. Paleotopographic depictions used computer mapping programs (Didger, ArcGIS with 3D Analyst, World Construction) to illustrate this LBA landscape applying modern topography and bathymetry as a foundation; LBA cultural features have not been added, but shall be with cooperation from archaeologists. A pre-eruption landscape is suggested with a ring-shaped island surrounding a large central caldera, somewhat similar to today’s topography, but with a large island centered within the caldera. Wall paintings, soil types buried beneath the LBA tephra, and fossils within the soils indicate a barren, wind-swept island with few trees surrounding the caldera, and a central island with perhaps more vegetation, better soils, and a large city.