how was akrotiri discovered

How Was Akrotiri Discovered (And What Was Found?!)

Akrotiri, a Bronze Age settlement located on the Greek island of Santorini, is a significant archaeological discovery that has provided valuable insights into ancient Aegean civilization.

Akrotiri was discovered through a series of excavations carried out by archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos in the 1960s. 

The site, had been buried under volcanic ash for centuries, and due to this was remarkably well-preserved, offering a rare glimpse into the daily life and culture of the Minoan civilization.

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The story of how Akrotiri was discovered is a fascinating one…

Minature reconstruction of Akrotiri
minature reconstruction of the Akrotiri archeological site

In 1967, Marinatos was conducting excavations at the nearby site of Thera when he noticed that some of the rocks used in the construction of the ancient walls were not native to the area.

This discovery led him to investigate further, and he soon uncovered the remains of a sophisticated settlement buried beneath the volcanic ash. The site was so well-preserved that it was dubbed the “Pompeii of the Aegean.”

Key Takeaways

  • Akrotiri is a Bronze Age settlement located on the Greek island of Santorini that was discovered by archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos in the 1960s.
  • The site was remarkably well-preserved due to being buried under volcanic ash for centuries, offering valuable insights into ancient Aegean civilization.
  • Marinatos’ discovery of Akrotiri has had a significant impact on our understanding of Minoan culture and society.

Discovery of Akrotiri

Akrotiri was originally discovered in 1860, by quarry workers who were quarrying volcanic rock for use in the Suez canal came across the site.

It wasn’t until 1967 when Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos, excavated the site. The city had been buried under layers of volcanic ash and pumice since the eruption of the Thera volcano in the mid-second millennium BCE.

Marinatos was interested in exploring the island of Santorini because of its reputation as a site of archaeological importance.

He had previously excavated at Knossos, the largest Bronze Age site on the island of Crete, and was familiar with the Minoan civilization that had flourished in the Aegean region during the Bronze Age.

Marinatos and his team began his excavation of Akrotiri in 1967, and quickly uncovered evidence of a sophisticated urban civilization that had been buried under the ash of the Thera eruption.

He found well-preserved buildings, frescoes, pottery, and other artifacts that provided a glimpse into the daily life of the Minoan people who had lived in Akrotiri.

pottery at akrotiri
Examples of pottery discovered at Akrotiri

Role of Spyridon Marinatos

Marinatos played a crucial role in the discovery of Akrotiri, developing innovative methods for excavating the site, including the use of plaster casts to preserve the shapes of objects that had been buried under the ash.

Marinatos’s work at Akrotiri was groundbreaking, and helped to shed light on the Minoan civilization that had flourished in the Aegean region during the Bronze Age.

His discoveries at Akrotiri have influenced our understanding of ancient Greek history and culture, and continue to inspire archaeologists and historians to this day.

Significance of the Discovery

The discovery of Akrotiri was significant because it provided a glimpse into the advanced civilization of the Minoans.

The Minoans were one of the earliest civilizations in Europe, and their influence can be seen in later cultures, such as the ancient Greeks.

The well-preserved artifacts and structures at Akrotiri allowed archaeologists to study the Minoan culture in detail. The frescoes, in particular, provided insight into the Minoan religion, art, and daily life.

The discovery of Akrotiri also challenged previous beliefs about the extent of Minoan influence in the Aegean region.

Overall, the excavation of Akrotiri was a significant discovery in the field of archaeology.

It provided valuable information about the impact which the Minoans had on the ancient world.

Key Points in the Discovery of Akrotiri

DateKey Point
1939The site was first discovered by Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos
1939Marinatos was drawn to Santorini due to his hypothesis linking the Minoan civilization’s decline with the volcanic eruption on the island
1939Local villagers had told tales of ancient ruins buried beneath the volcanic ash, which sparked Marinatos’ curiosity and led to the discovery of Akrotiri
1939-1967Explorations revealed traces of Minoan settlements under layers of volcanic ash and pumice, suggesting a catastrophic volcanic event
1967The well-preserved condition of the city beneath layers of volcanic ash provided a unique opportunity for archaeologists to study the ancient Minoan civilization
1967The city was named Akrotiri after the nearby modern village
1967-ongoingThe discovered city spanned over 20 hectares and contained over 100 multi-story buildings
1967-ongoingNotable findings during the excavation include multi-story buildings, intricate frescoes, advanced plumbing systems, and a variety of artifacts, all providing invaluable insights into Minoan life
1967-ongoingThe discovery of a gold ibex figurine suggested Akrotiri’s importance as a trading center connected to other Mediterranean cultures
1967-ongoingMarinatos’s discovery of Akrotiri is considered a monumental milestone in Greek archaeology and has greatly expanded our knowledge of ancient civilizations
2005The site was closed to the public due to a roof collapse
2012Akrotiri was reopened with a new protective bioclimatic roof to ensure its preservation and accessibility to tourists and researchers
1967-presentExcavation work is ongoing at Akrotiri, indicating that more discoveries may still be forthcoming

Marinatos’ Volcanic Eruption Theory

Marinatos, believed that the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete was destroyed by a volcanic eruption on the nearby island of Santorini. This theory led to the exploration of Akrotiri, a Bronze Age settlement on Santorini that was buried under volcanic ash.

Marinatos’ theory was based on the discovery of pumice, a volcanic rock, on the island of Crete. He believed that the pumice was from Santorini and that it was evidence of a massive volcanic eruption which destroyed all civilization there.

The excavations at Akrotiri uncovered a sophisticated city with multi-story buildings, paved streets, and a complex drainage system. The city also had a thriving economy, with evidence of trade with other civilizations.

Marinatos’ theory and excavations at Akrotiri have had a significant impact on our understanding of the Minoan civilization and ancient Greek history. They have also inspired further research and exploration of the ancient world.


The discovery and excavation process behind Akrotiri is an inspiring example not only for archaeologists but for all those who seek knowledge about what lies beneath the surface. The well-preserved ruins of Akrotiri have helped us understand the Minoan civilization and provide valuable insights into ancient Mediterranean culture.

Despite the controversy surrounding the site’s preservation, its legacy remains a significant contribution to our collective knowledge about human history.


What is the history of Akrotiri archaeological site?

Akrotiri is an ancient Minoan settlement located on the island of Santorini in Greece. The site was inhabited during the Bronze Age, around 3000 BC to 1600 BC. The settlement was buried under volcanic ash from a massive eruption that occurred around 1600 BC, preserving the site for thousands of year

Who led the excavation of Akrotiri?

The excavation of Akrotiri was led by Spyridon Marinatos, a Greek archaeologist, in the 1960s. Marinatos and his team began excavations in 1967 and continued until 1974.

What was the significance of the Akrotiri discovery?

The discovery of Akrotiri was significant because it provided a glimpse into the life and culture of the Minoans, a civilization that was previously known only through legends and myths. The well-preserved artifacts and architecture at the site revealed a sophisticated society with advanced technology, art, and architecture.

How did the discovery of Akrotiri change our understanding of ancient civilizations?

The discovery of Akrotiri challenged many assumptions about ancient civilizations. The advanced architecture and engineering at the site suggested that the Minoans were more advanced than previously believed. The discovery also revealed a complex society with a system of trade, agriculture, and governance.

What artifacts have been found at Akrotiri?

Numerous artifacts have been found at Akrotiri, including pottery, frescoes, statues, and tools. Many of the artifacts are well-preserved due to the volcanic ash that buried the site. The frescoes, in particular, are notable for their intricate detail and vivid colors.

What is the current state of the Akrotiri site and museum?

The Akrotiri site is open to visitors, and ongoing excavations continue to uncover new discoveries. The site is also home to a museum that displays many of the artifacts found at the site. The museum provides visitors with a glimpse into the daily life and culture of the Minoans.