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Dating the volcanic eruption at Thera.

Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Sturt W Manning, Mariagrazia Galimberti

Abstract


The eruption of the volcano at Thera (Santorini) in the Aegean Sea undoubtedly had a profound influence on the civilizations of the surrounding region. The date of the eruption has been a subject of much controversy because it must be linked into the established and intricate archaeological phasings of both the prehistoric Aegean and the wider east Mediterranean. Radiocarbon dating of material from the volcanic destruction layer itself can provide some evidence for the date of the eruption, but because of the shape of the calibration curve for the relevant period, the value of such dates relies on there being no biases in the data sets. However, by dating the material from phases earlier and later than the eruption, some of the problems of the calibration data set can be circumvented and the chronology for the region can be resolved with more certainty. In this paper, we draw together the evidence we have accumulated so far, including new data on the destruction layer itself and for the preceding cultural horizon at Thera, and from associated layers at Miletos in western Turkey. Using Bayesian models to synthesize the data and to identify outliers, we conclude from the most reliable (super 14) C evidence (and using the INTCAL98 calibration data set) that the eruption of Thera occurred between 1663 and 1599 BC.

Keywords


absolute age;Aegean Islands;Asia ;Bayesian analysis;C 14;calibration ;carbon ;Cenozoic ;chronology ;Cyclades ;dates ;eruptions ;Europe ;Greece ;Greek Aegean Islands;Holocene ;isotopes ;measurement ;Mediterranean region;Middle East;Miletos Turkey;Quaternary ;radioactive isotopes;samples ;Southern Europe;statistical analysis;Thera ;Turkey ;volcanoes ;western Turkey

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