Athens Greece Guide
The Complete travel Guide to Athens and Greece

The Cyclades Islands



The Ancient Minoan archaeological site of Akrotiri on the island of Santorini

Akrotiri, Santorini

Akrotiri is an archaeological site on the island of Santorini and dates back to the Minoans (the early bronze age civilization of Crete). The town was destroyed by the huge Theran volcanic explosion in 1627 BC, the same volcanic explosion that blew the hole in the centre of what is now Santorini and leaving us the amazing Caldera that the island is famous for, it is also believed to be the cause of a huge tsunami that devastated the Minoans on Crete. The Theran eruption is thought to have been double the strength of the Krakatoa explosion.

Volcanic Eruption of Thera

Akrotiri and the huge eruption is believed by many historians to be Plato's Atlantis or at least what started the myth of the sunken island. The archaeological site was named after the nearby modern village of Akrotiri, what the ancient town was actually called is unknown. Although the site is extensive it is estimated that the town is much larger, when walking around the site you can see streets and wall disappear into the un-excavated earth or past the wall of the modern building.

Akrotiri, Santorini

The Minoan Pompeii

The town was covered in volcanic ash, much like Pompeii, it was preserved under metres of ash and frozen in time giving us a glimpse of bronze age Santorini. Unlike Pompeii there were no bodies found at Akrotiri leading to Archaeologist to believe the town was deserted before the explosion probably pre warned by the earthquakes that preceded the explosions. You can see the size of some of these earthquakes, there is a stone staircase in one of the houses cracked down the middle from an earthquake.

Akrotiri, Santorini

The inhabitants took most of their possessions with them when they evacuated, archaeologists have found very little objects that were small enough to carry. What archaeologists did find is perfectly preserved buildings, some up to 3 storeys high, and containing some amazing frescoes, some were still being painted when the town was evacuated, buckets of dried plaster and paint have been discovered next to these frescoes.

The History of the site of Akrotiri

The site that we see today dates back to about 1600 BC but it is believed that Akrotiri was first in habited during the 4th millenium and was until the volcanic destruction. Akrotiri must have been one of the largest settlements of the time and very organized as you can see how the town is planned out, it also has a sewage system. There is also evidence of trade with other cultures from the mainland, the Dodecanese islands (Rhodes), Egypt, Syria and Cyprus. Santorini was never occupied after the Theran eruption until around 900 BC by Spartan colonists, there colony is just north of Akrotiri , ancient Thera.

The Archaeological site of Akrotiri

Akrotiri, Santorini

The modern excavation of Akrotiri began in 1967 by Spyridon Marinatos and became one of the most important archaeological sites in the Aegean. The whole site is covered in by a modern roof and walls to protect the site from the elements, in 2005 a part of the roof fell and killed a tourist and the site was closed until it reopened in April 2012. There is a large car park outside the site but is also connected by buses from the capital of Santorini Fira. Opening times are 10:00 - 17:00.

Frescoes of Akrotiri

Akrotiri is famous for the amazing wall frescoes that have been preserved by the volcanic ash all these frescoes are now kept in the National archaeological Museum in Athens or the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira, Santorini.

Akrotiri, Santorini

The Fisherman Fresco

This Fresco was found in the West house and is of a man holding a bunch of fish in each hand. Archaeologists believe the Fresco has a religious purpose as an offering table was found in the same room as the Fresco and the man with the fish seemed to be walking towards the table. This Fresco is now on view at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Akrotiri, Santorini

The boxers Fresco

This Fresco depicts two youths boxing, it is thought that boxing was more of a ritual sport than the modern competitive sport of boxing. This Fresco is now on view at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

The Antelope Fresco

The Antelope Fresco is in the same room as the Boxer's on the opposite wall.

Akrotiri, Santorini

The Monkey Fresco

The Monkey Fresco show a group of blue monkeys being chased by two dogs, the Fresco was discovered in 1969 and stimulated even more interest at the site. This Fresco is on view at Museum of Prehistoric Thera, Santorini.

Akrotiri, Santorini

The Ladies Fresco

This Fresco is actually two different Frescoes in the same room (now called the Ladies room for obvious reasons), The two ladies are dressed in typical Minoan style of dress with their breasts showing. In the same room archaeologists also found the Fresco of Papyrus which depicts Papyrus flowers in groups. These Frescoes are on view at Museum of Prehistoric Thera, Santorini.

The Lilies Fresco (Spring Fresco)

The Lilies Fresco or Spring Fresco depict Lilies growing amongst volcanic rocks and have swallows flying between them. This Fresco is now on view at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

The Ship Fresco

The Ship Fresco is 6 metres long and show a number of ships travelling between ports. The town on the right of the Fresco is believed to be Akrotiri due to the architecture and the clothes people are wearing. This Fresco is now on view at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Akrotiri, Santorini