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Ancient Akrotiri Review
If Santorini is known as the "Greek Pompeii" and is claimant to the title of the lost Atlantis, it is because of the archaeological site of ancient Akrotiri, near the tip of the southern horn of the island. The site, long closed for structural repairs, is about to open but, it should be noted, it has long been "about to open." So: please call or check the Web site when you arrive on Santorini.
In the 1860s, in the course of quarrying volcanic ash for use in the Suez Canal, workmen discovered the remains of an ancient town. The town was frozen in time by ash from an eruption 3,600 years ago, long before Pompeii's disaster. In 1967 Spyridon Marinatos of the University of Athens began excavations, which occasionally continue. It is thought that the 40 buildings that have been uncovered are only one-thirtieth of the huge site and that excavating the rest will probably take a century.
Marinatos's team discovered many well-preserved frescoes depicting aspects of Akrotiri life, some now displayed in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens; Santorini wants them back to join the small selection that are on view in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera in Fira. Meanwhile, postcard-size pictures of them are posted outside the houses where they were found. The antelopes, monkeys, and wildcats they portray suggest trade with Egypt.
Culturally an outpost of Minoan Crete, Akrotiri was settled as early as 3000 BC and reached its peak after 2000 BC, when it developed trade and agriculture and settled the present town. The inhabitants cultivated olive trees and grain, and their advanced architecture—three-story frescoed houses faced with masonry (some with balconies) and public buildings of sophisticated construction—is evidence of an elaborate lifestyle.
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