Category Archive 'Thera'

03 Dec 2008

New Carbon Dating of Thera Produces Archaeological Puzzle

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Recent carbon dating tests of the Thera Eruption provides a date contradicting the established chronological sequence of Egyptian and Cypriot pottery found on the island.

Two olive branches buried by a Minoan-era eruption of the volcano on the island of Thera (modern-day Santorini) have enabled precise radiocarbon dating of the catastrophe to 1613 BC, with an error margin of plus or minus 10 years, according to two researchers who presented conclusions of their previously published research during an event on Tuesday at the Danish Archaeological Institute of Athens.

Speaking at an event entitled “The Enigma of Dating the Minoan Eruption – Data from Santorini and Egypt”, the study’s authors, Dr. Walter Friedrich of the Danish University of Aarhus and Dr. Walter Kutschera of the Austrian University of Vienna, said data left by the branch of an olive tree with 72 annular growth rings was used for dating via the radiocarbon method, while a second olive branch — found just nine metres away from the first — was unearthed in July 2007 and has not yet been analysed. …

On the other hand, as the two researchers pointed out, archaeological evidence linked with the Historical Dating of Ancient Egypt indicate that the Thera eruption must have occurred after the start of the New Kingdom in Egypt in 1530 BC.

The two researchers said their find (olive tree) represents a serious contradiction between the results of the scientific method (radiocarbon dating) and scholarly work in the humanities (history-archaeology), with both sides holding strong arguments to support their conclusions.

The radiocarbon dating places the cataclysmic eruption, blamed for heralding the end to the Minoan civilisation, a century earlier than previous scientific finds.

The eruption and the subsequent devastation throughout the Aegean has long piqued researchers’ interest, with many scholars pointing to Plato’s reference of the “lost continent of Atlantis” on vague memories, passed down generation to generation in the ancient Greek world, of the catastrophe.

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