The fossilised olive leaves of Santorini

Santorini fossilised olive leaves

Currently on holiday out in Santorini, Greece. Been seeing lots of antiquities, both in museums and (relatively) in situ in ruins. At the moment we are having breakfast under the windmill on the northern corner of the rim of the volcanic crater that makes up the Greek island of Santorini (Thera) in the town of Oia (pronounced ee-ya by the locals and those in the know and oy-ya by the masses of tourists who arrive by ferry, cruise ship or air).

Yesterday we drove down from Oia to Fira to visit both the Archaeological Museum of Thera as well as the Museum of Prehistoric Thera. Thera (“the circular one”) is the original name for Santorini before being renamed by the Latin Empire for Saint Irene (Santa Irini). The museums are small (compared with the museums of Crete or Athens) but have many nice artifacts and lots of good information on the Cycladic and Minoan civilizations that preceded the more modern day Greek culture.

Of local note is the fact that the volcanic cone that is Santorini erupted approximately 3600 years ago which destroyed the local settlements and reshaped the island significantly. It is hypothesised that the resulting tsunami may have reached the coast of Crete (to the south) and may have put an end to the Minoan civilisation there as well.

This morning we are off to go visit the excavated remains of the village of Akrotiri on the opposite end of the largest crescent island that forms modern day Santorini to see where many of the artifacts we encountered in the museums were originally discovered.

Imagine my delight when among all of the pottery, stucco frescos, Bronze Age tools, and other items of use 37 centuries ago, I spotted some familiar looking items in a display case–fossils! These rare fossils were found in the caldera and are dated to 60,000 years BP.

I’ve seen the ubiquitous olive trees with their distinctive gray-green foliage (currently sporting small undeveloped fruits) and I’ve certainly eaten my share of olives while on this trip (good thing I REALLY like Greek olives) but these are the first fossil olives I’ve encountered.

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Credit for the photos: Ken from The Fossil Forum.

Ken is a Moderator on The Fossil Forum.

READ MORE: Greeks are Everywhere: The Greek History Behind the Sicilian Flag.

Guest Contributor

This piece was written for Greek City Times by a Guest Contributor