The dating of a piece of olive tree found on Thirasia moves the dating of the ‘Minoan’ eruption of the volcano a few decades later than previous estimates.
The wood was found in the area Kimissi Thirassia, the prehistoric settlement which lies on a hillside of the island once connected to Santorini, at least up to the Middle Bronze Age, before the volcano exploded.
The settlement is on top of a hill on the southern side of Thirasia, and on the edge of the caldera that existed before the volcanic eruption, that was previously dated to the 17th century, between 1627 BC and 1600 BC. The wood belongs to the last stratigraphic phase before the eruption.
The University of Arizona at Tucson team that tested the wood show that it dates absolutely to the late 16th century BC, therefore places the devastating blast some decades after the date supported until now.
One thing we do know is the time of the year the catastrophy devastated the island and the wider Mediterranean. Research in 2016 studied fossilised insect eggs that were found in a pot containing seeds of sweet peas in a house in ‘Ancient Akrotiri’, the Minoan town on the island that was buried by ash during the eruption.
The research team that studied the fossil insect eggs concluded the explosion occurred some time between June to early July, as these were the only months that these particular insects could deposit eggs in the jar, any later and the eggs would have hatched.
This helps meteorologists examine how the prevailing winds at this time of year would have spread the ash clouds and therefore the effect on the region and world as a whole.
The ‘Minoan’ eruption was one of the largest volcanic explosions in the history of mankind, which is not only associated with the demise of the Minoan civilization, but seems to have had a major detrimental effect on ancient Egypt, the Hittites and other civilisations around the eastern Mediterranean and beyond.
(Detailed information on the volcano and its history can be found in the ‘A to Z Guide to Santorini’ guide book.)