- EXCAVATION OF PREHISTORΙCAL-CITY OF AKROTIRI
The most prominent archaeological site in Santorini -and one of the most important archaeological sites in the Aegean– is Akrotiri and the findings of the excavations that began in 1967.
Akrotiri (Promontory) is located at the southwestern tip of the island, 15 km from Fira. It is a real promontory, with sheer cliff shores stretching three miles west of the southernmost part of Santorini.
After several years, the archaeological site re-opened for the visitors since April 2012, after the new roof was in place.
The big excavation
First signs of habitation in Akrotiri date back to the Late Neolithic Period (at least from the 4th millennium BC). By the Early Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC), there was a settlement in Akrotiri that was expanded in the Middle and Late Bronze Age (20th-17th centuries BC) becoming one of the main urban centres of the Aegean.
Covering about 50 acres, the settlement had a very well-planed infrastructure and an elaborate sewage system. Imported products found inside the buildings prove that Akrotiri was well developed, held strong ties with Minoan Crete and conducted business with the Greek mainland, the Dodecanese, Cyprus, Syria, and Egypt.
The growth of the town ended abruptly at the end of the 17th century BC, when its inhabitants left due to powerful seismic foreshocks. Then, the volcano erupted, and volcanic material covered the town and the rest of the island, preserving the buildings and their contents to this day.
Professor Spyros Marinatos began systematic excavations in Akrotiri, in 1967. He had decided to excavate there in order to prove an old theory of his, i.e. that the eruption of the volcano caused the collapse of the Minoan civilization in Crete (see also Attractions-Volcano).
After Marinatos died, in 1974, excavations continued under the direction of professor Christos Doumas.
Xeste 3: A big, at least two-storied, building with 14 rooms on each floor. Many of them are connected with pier-and-door partitions (polythyra) and decorated with frescoes, while there is a “Lustral Basin” in one of them. The most interesting frescoes are the Crocus Collectors, depicting three women in a field of crocus clusters and an altar, as well as the Altar, which depicts women collecting crocus and offering them to a sitting deity, surrounded by an ape and a griffin.
Section Β: It probably includes two separate buildings attached to each other. The frescoes of the Antelopes and the Boxers originated from the floor of the western building. The eastern building is the origin of the fresco of the Apes, a composition with monkeys climbing on rocks at the banks of a river.
The West House: A relatively small, but well-organized edifice. On the ground floor, there are food storage areas, workshops, a kitchen and a mill facility. The first floor has a spacious room where looms, a food and utensils storage area, a toilet and two consecutive walls with frescoes were located. Of these, the one is decorated with the two frescoes of the Fishermen, the fresco of the Priestess and the famous miniature frieze of the Fleet that runs its four walls. The frieze depicts a fleet visiting coastal cities, the last of which identifies with Akrotiri itself. The other space is decorated with the eight frescoes of the Ship Cabins.
Building Complex D: It consists of four buildings. A room of the east edifice was found decorated with the Spring Fresco, which consists of a rocky landscape with blossoming lilies and swallows flying between them. Tablets of Linear A script were found in the same building. All the buildings of Building Complex D gave remarkable mobile finds.
The House of the Ladies: The Ladies and the Papyruses Fresco, to which it owes its name, was found in this building.
Xeste 4: This is a magnificent three-storied building, the largest uncovered so far. All facades are lined with carved rectangular blocks of chalkstone. The fragments of the frescoes that have come to light up to the present day belong to a composition that decorated the entrance’s staircase and depict a parade of gift-bringing men at a natural size, climbing on a staircase. It probably was a public building.
- Visiting hours 10.00-17.00
- For information please contact: +30 22860 81939 and the Museum of Prehistoric Thera: +30 22860 23217
- From 1999 to 2002, as foundation works for the new roof proceeded, a big excavation was conducted in Akrotiri, bringing to light two earlier towns/phases of the settlement: One from the Middle Cycladic and one from the Early Cycladic period.
- ANCIENT THIRA (KAMARI)
Ancient Thera stands on Mesa Vouno, at an altitude of 396 m. It was founded in the 9th century BC by Dorian settlers, led by Theras; habitation continued until the early Byzantine era. Excavations have mainly brought to light the areas built during 2007. Routes are well-planned and marked with signs.
The position is naturally fortified because the steep slopes of the mountain made the city inaccessible from land or sea and also a great observatory to the SE Aegean Sea. Public and private buildings are built along the main axis of the city in direction from the NE to the SE corner of the rock. Smaller cobbled streets adapted to the terrain, intersected the main road.
Building remnants belong to the Hellenistic era, which is the last period of the city’s prosperity. The residential development is amphitheatrical due to the inclination of the terrain and to the building in such way so there was a view of the sea.
Few private houses have been excavated organized in neighborhoods, mainly in the eastern part of town. The habitation sites were built around a closed courtyard and beneath it was a tank collecting rain water. Homes had more or less spaces, or were developed vertically with a second floor depending on the social and financial status of the residents. (Data taken from the text of archeologist Angeliki Birtacha in the book “Santorini: And the sea brought forth the earth”/ Topio Publications).
THE SANCTUARY OF ARTEMIDOROS: The rock-hewn sanctuary, dating back to the late 4th/early 3rd century BC, was founded by Artemidoros of Perge, admiral of the Ptolemaic fleet. Engraved inscriptions and symbols of gods worshiped at the time can be seen on the rocks.
THE AGORA: Built at the city centre, its south side was the commercial centre, while the middle part was the administrative centre of the city. At the northern part, constructed during the Roman years, there are several monuments, a stoa, and temple-shaped buildings.
THE ROYAL STOA: Dating from the era of Augustus (1st century AD), it stands at the SW edge of the agora. Statues of the Caesar’s family stood at its northern side; on the western wall, two insert inscribed plates mention that the stoa was restored by the Cleitosthenes, a wealthy resident of Thira, in 149 AD.
THE TEMPLE OF DIONYSUS: North of the Agora stands a small Hellenistic temple of Doric order, dedicated to Dionysus. The façade and roof were marble, while the rest of the building was made of locally-mined stone. It dates from the 3rd century BC.
THE AREA OF THE SANCTUARIES: At the southeast edge of the city, it contains only open-air or covered sanctuaries, dedicated to Apollo Karneios, Hermes, Hercules, Ptolemy III, and others. In addition, there is the square where the festivities to honor Apollo Karneios (Gymnopaediae) took place. There are many inscriptions ranging from the Archaic to the Roman period engraved on the rocks.
THE SANCTUARY OF APOLLO KARNEIOS: Dating back to the 6th century BC, it is partly rock-hewn and partly built on a retaining wall. It comprises the temple, a square yard with an underground cistern, and a small building, possibly a sacristy.
GYMNASIUM FOR EPHEBES: Dating from the 2nd century AD, it stands on the south side of the city; a partly rock-hewn cave survives, dedicated to Hermes and Hercules.
THE CEMETERIES: On the hillsides of Sellada and flanking the roads to the northern and southern ports of the ancient city –the modern Kamari and Perissa respectively– lie the cemeteries of Ancient Thira. Burials ranging from the Geometric up to the Roman period have been uncovered.
THE THEATRE: Built in the era of the Ptolemies (3rd century BC), it stands on the SE part of the Agora. In the 1st century AD, the stage was expanded, occupying part of the original orchestra.
- The site is open from 8:30-14:30; Mondays closed. For information, please contact the museum of Prehistoric Thera:
- Tel.: +30 22860 23217
- Ancient Thera and the largest part of its cemeteries were excavated by the German archaeologist Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen, from 1895 to 1902; the Sellada cemeteries were excavated by N. Zafeiropoulos from 1961 to 1982.
- In November 2000, an exquisite female statue of a Daedalic-style Kore, dating back to 600 BC, was found in the cemetery by archaeologist Charalambos Sigalas.
- ELEFSIS (PERISSA)
Elefsis is a ancient site and is located in South Aegean, Greece. The estimate terrain elevation above seal level is 47 metres.