Santorini is more than just jaw-dropping cliffs of geological beauty and white-washed bars peering into the crystal blue Aegean waters and a lifestyle envied by any city-slicker visiting the island.
The island is home to significant archaeological findings that take visitors back to humanity's prehistoric stages, 4,000 years ago.
The tour of the archeological site of Akrotiri is a trip back in time for every visitor. Buildings and objects trapped under thick volcanic material remained intact or left their imprint.
Akrotiri is one of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean. 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, and multi-storey buildings.
The town's life came to an abrupt end in the last quarter of the 17th century B.C. when the inhabitants were obliged to abandon it due to severe earthquakes. The eruption followed. The volcanic materials covered the entire island and the town itself. These materials, however, have protected up-to-date buildings and their contents, just like in Pompei.
The absence of human skeletons on the site proves that the inhabitants had time to abandon the settlement. More probably, they left the island as well. Perhaps the disaster caught them gathered in an open space or the port, trying to save themselves and their belongings.
It seems that the departure took place in an organised 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 to protect them as well. The desire and the hope to return were obvious. The valuable objects were left with the inhabitants who abandoned the town.
The buildings of Akrotiri are unique examples of impressive architecture. Magnificent structures with carved facades housed communal services. Private houses included workshops and warehouses beside 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 gravel 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.
Five thousand vessels of various types and sizes, tools, figurines, ritual objects and furniture that came to light during the excavations testify to the great development of the settlement. Food leftovers and bones of animals help us reconstruct the nutritional habits of the inhabitants. Impressive frescoes, the oldest samples of monumental paintings in the Hellenic world, decorated almost all the building complexes providing us with valuable information about the society of Akrotiri through their narrative character.
Various imported materials and objects prove the relationships and contact of Akrotiri with Minoan Crete, the Dodecanese, Cyprus, Continental Greece, Egypt, and Syria.[via Visit Greece]