It is one of the most important prehistoric settlements of the Aegean.
The first habitation at Akrotiri
dates from the Late Neolithic times (at least the 4th millenium BC). During the Early
Cycladic period (3rd millenium BC), a sizeable settlement
was founded, and in the Middle Cycladic period (ca. 20th-17th centuries BC) it was
extended and gradually developed into one of the main urban centres and ports of
the Aegean. The large extent of the settlement (ca. 20 hectares), the elaborate drainage system,
the sophisticated multi-storeyed buildings with the magnificent wall-paintings, furniture
and vessels, show its great development and prosperity. The various imported objects
found in the buildings indicate the wide network of its external relations. Akrotiri was in
contact with the Minoan Crete but also communicated with the Greek Mainland, the
Dodecanese, Cyprus, Syria and Egypt. The town's life came to an abrupt end in the last
quarter of the 17th century BC when the inhabitants were obliged to abandon it as a
result of severe earthquakes. The erruption followed. The entire island and with it the
prehistoric town of Akrotiri were buried unter the volcanic materials which covered
the buildings and their contents
like a protective shield, as in the case of the Roman Pompei.
Evidence of habitation at Akrotiri first came to light in the second
half of the 19th century. The systematic excavations
began in 1967, by Professor Spyridon Marinatos under the auspices of the Archaeological
Society at Athens. He decided to excavate at Akrotiri in the hope of verifying
an old theory of his, published in the 1930's, that the eruption of the Thera
volcano was responsible for the collapse of the Minoan civilization. Since his
death in 1974, the excavations have been continued under the direction of Professor
Christos Doumas. No interventions are made on
the uncovered monuments
unless it is necessary for their consolidation or for the preservation of the evidence,
including information concerning the destruction of the settlement
The most important buildings of the site are:
- Xeste 3
Large edifice, at least two-storeys high, with fourteen rooms on each floor. Some of the rooms were connected by
multiple doors and decorated with magnificent wall-paintings. In one of them there was a "Lustral basin", which is
considered a sacred area. The most interesting of the frescoes are the ones of the
and of the
The former depicts three women in a field with bloomed crocuses and an altar, and the latter, female figures engaged
in collecting crocuses which they offer to a seated goddess, flanked by a blue monkey and a griffin. Judging from the
architectural peculiarities of the building and the themes of the frescoes, one may conclude that Xeste 3 was used for
the performance of some kind of ritual.
- Sector B
comprises two separate buildings, the one attached to the other. From the first floor of the western building, came the
famous wall paintings
of the Antelopes
The eastern building yielded the fresco of the Monkeys
a composition of monkeys climbing on rocks at the side of a river.
- The West House
a relatively small, but well-organized building
In the ground floor there are storerooms, workshops, a kitchen and a mill-installation. The first floor is occupied by a spacious
chamber used for weaving activities, a room for the storage mainly of clay vessels, a lavatory and two rooms, the one next
to the other, embellished with magnificent murals. The first was decorated with the two
frescoes of the Fishermen
the fresco of the Young Priestess
and the famous Flotilla miniature frieze
The latter ran around all the four walls and depicted a major overseas voyage
in the course of which, the fleet visited several harbours and towns. The final destination of the fleet with the rocky
landscape, the configuration of the harbour and the multi-storeyed buildings is identified with the
port of Akrotiri
The walls of the second room were decorated with a single motif which was repeated eight times. This motif is identified
as the cabin at the stern of the ships depicted in the miniature frieze.
- Complex Delta
includes four houses. A room of the eastern building is decorated with the
the artist represented with special sensitivity a rocky landscape, planted with blossoming lilies, between which swallows fly
in a variety of positions. Tablets of the Linear A script have recently been found in the same building. All four buildings yielded
interesting finds such as abundant imported pottery and precious stone and bronze objects.
- The House of the Ladies.
The large, two-storeyed building was named after the
fresco with the Ladies and the Papyruses
which decorated the interior. The most interesting architectural feature of the building is a light-well constructed at its centre.
- Xeste 4
is a magnificent three-storeyed building, the largest excavated up to now. All its facades are revetted with
rectangular ashlar blocks of tuff. The fragments of frescoes that have so far come to light belong to a composition which
adorned the walls on either side of the staircase at the entrance of the building, depicting life-size male figures ascending the
steps in procession. It was in all probability a public building, judging from its unusually large dimensions, the impressive exterior
and the decoration of the walls.