The “Minoan eruption”

The myth of the lost state

You are here:

Research data shows that the so-called “Minoan eruption” was one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history, second only to that of Mount Tambora, Indonesia, in 1825.
According to Fouquet, the violent eruption and its catastrophic consequences date back in 2000 BC. According to Dörpfeld, it was in 1500 BC. Others place it between 1890 and 1500 BC.

Τhe Greek professor Spyros Marinatos, who supported Dörpfeld, In 1939, formulated the groundbreaking theory for its time, namely that the Minoan civilization was not ravaged by invaders around the mid-2nd millennium B.C., but by the violent Theran eruption taking place during the same period. More specifically, he argued that it was destroyed by a large tidal wave caused by the collapse of the central volcanic cone and which, he argued, had struck Crete. Marinatos based his theory on two archaeological findings. The first of these corroborated that the demise of the Minoan civilization was not the result of human agency (external incursions or internal riots) and the second was an indication that the tidal wave had left its mark on Amnisos, the port town serving Knossos at that time. At Amnisos, Marinatos located certain buildings, the walls of which had collapsed and had been carried off towards the coast by the tidal wave. He also found traces of Theran pumice that had been trapped inside the ruins, which he attributed to the tidal wave.
However, this theory was overturned by the last carbon dating of an olive branch found buried in volcanic ash. This dating placed the eruption between 1627 and 1600 BC, possibly in the years 1613-1614.


According to professor Antonis Kontaratos, Marinatos’s theory, as well as furnishing useful insights, also poses certain problems, as it was subsequently proven. The insights it offers relate to the fact that a tidal wave of a certain size must have formed, that it must have reached Crete and caused a degree of material damages (at least according to the Amnisos findings), and that it must have deposited salts on the cultivated fields, thus ruining the crops to a certain extent. At the same time, volcanic ash containing sulphur must have covered arable land with a layer of a certain thickness, thus once again dealing a blow to the harvest. On the other hand, it has three drawbacks: Firstly, there are no clear indications of the destructive passage of a tidal wave in Crete apart from Amnisos. Secondly, the Minoan civilization was not destroyed by the Theran eruption but nearly a century and a half later, according to the latest archaeological findings. Thirdly, various towns of the time situated in the Aegean survived the eruption and continued to exist.

In 1967, Marinatos commenced extensive research, in the same Akrotiri area which had already been excavated by the two preceding foreign archaeological missions almost a century earlier.