Akrotiri, Santorini: The History of an Ancient Civilization

Akrotiri_-_Santorini2The prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri on the Greek island of Santorini was destroyed by an earthquake that preceded the volcano eruption in 1615 BC. The mixture of volcanic ash and pumice helped preserve the remains of the prosperous and advanced community for more than 3500 years, making it as if time was standing still throughout the millennia.

The settlement was uncovered by Greek archaeologist Spyros Marinatos in 1967. Since then, Akrotiri has been considered an ongoing excavation project. Next year will be the 50th anniversary since the excavation operation began in the area, and as far as archaeologists are concerned only 26% of the settlement has been uncovered.

The archaeological landmark has not received as much attention as Vergina or Mycenes, however, the buried settlement that is slowly coming to light through precision and patience, allows tourist to see how one of the first European civilizations used to live.

Christos Doumas, Emeritus Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology at Athens University and director of the excavations at Akrotiri since 1975, believes that a few days passed between the earthquake and the volcanic eruption. The archaeological finds show that after the earthquake some people return in order to start working on repairing the houses. Unfortunately, they all had to evacuate the area a second time as soon as the volcano erupted.


During the eruption there were strong winds from the west, thus transferring all the ash and fumes to the east of the island. Locals never had time to evacuate the whole island, and even if they did it is doubtful that they would have survived the wild seas.

A few days ago, Russian entrepreneur Eugene Kaspersky, founder of the digital security company Kaspersky organized a weekend so that journalists would be able to visit the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri. Kaspersky loves history and archaeology and so he decided to become a financial sponsor, in order to help the excavations move forward amidst the financial crisis. He approached the Greek Archaeological Society and Professor Doumas and expressed his intention to contribute financially. “They trusted us, so the work has started again,” he said.