The Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri was one of the most important Minoan urban centres and ports in the Aegean Sea when it was covered by volcanic ash in the 17th century BC.

The prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri on the island of Santorini (Thíra) is one of the most important sites in the Aegean. In prehistory it was a well connected Minoan port town, with connections to mainland Greece and as far afield as Egypt and Syria. As the town was covered in ash following a volcanic eruption on the island, preservation of the settlement is exceptional, making this one of the most significant archaeological sites in Greece.

Today the site is covered by a bioclimatic roof and walkways are suspended above the archaeological remains, that allows visitors to walk among the two and three-storey buildings.

Akrotiri is referred to as the ‘Greek Pompeii’ because the site was covered in volcanic ash. And, like its Italian namesake, a charred bed was also recovered by archaeologists. This along with a number of frescoes and other artefacts are on display in the Akrotiri of Thera Room in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Although the earliest evidence of habitation dates to the Late Neolithic times (around 6,000 years ago), it was not until the Late Bronze Age (cira 4,000 years ago) that Akrotiri had developed into one of the main urban centres and ports in the Aegean Sea. The extent of the settlement is an estimated 20 hectares; although it has not all been uncovered.

The settlement has a number of notable features: it had an elaborate drainage system, and was made up of sophisticated multi-storey buildings that were decorated with exquisite wall-paintings. The quality and quantity of the furniture and ceramic vessels are evidence of the town’s prosperity. Whereas the numerous imported objects recovered by archaeologists indicate a wide network of communication across the Mediterranean; from Crete and the Dodecanese islands to mainland Greece, from Cyprus to Egypt and Syria.

Sometime towards the end of the 17th century BC the inhabitants of the town were forced to leave after a series of severe earthquakes. There followed a volcanic eruption, the ash of which completely covered the island and the town. The exact date of the eruption is debated, but it is generally accepted that this was the largest volcanic eruption in the last 4,000 years.