Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010


Some 3,500 years ago, an event of cataclysmic proportions rocked the Mediterranean. The volcano at Thera (later known as the Greek island of Santorini) exploded with what is estimated at four to five times the eruptive force of Krakatoa in 1883, blowing a hole into the Aegean isle and sending out shock waves that, according to historians, would reverberate for centuries to come. The great seafaring Minoan civilization, the dominant Greek culture of the time, potentially withered away after clouds of ash enveloped its cities and great tsunami waves smashed its fleets. Stories of a world-shaking eruption linger in legends across the Mediterranean. For years, adventure-seeking archaeologists have even pored through Thera's geological record in search of the fabled lost city of Atlantis. Ancient Egyptian stela from roughly the same era chronicle a volcanic storm that "caused darkness in the Western region" and "annihilated" towns and temples alike. And some biblical scholars have even suggested Thera's destructive effects underlie the Old Testament's tales of God-sent plagues and devastation.