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I’ve always had a fascination with Crete and the Minoan culture, reading the Greek myths and letting my imagination run wild. Bull worship is as old as prehistory and the beginnings of the worship of bull-men is just as old. Achinoos is one, as is the Minotaur, kept hidden inside the famous labyrinth of King Minos of Crete.
In the middle of the 2nd millenium BC the sea rumbled in the Aegean, an earthquake followed by a destructive volcanic eruption on the island of Thera (Santorini) sounded the death knell for this once thriving culture. Although not the direct cause of their collapse, the eruption, evacuation and sudden cultural changes contributed significantly to their eventual demise as ancient sailors, traders and bringers of laws that spread throughout the Western world.
These priestesses of Knossos found on the wall art of Crete may have been priestesses of the Bulls, sacrificing the sacred beasts to keep themselves safe from the forces of nature. Maybe they had offended Poseidon or maybe the bull-man was angry at the indignity of his sudden end, erupting to go down in the history books as part of the mythical, historical realm of the Bronze Age Aegean Sea.
The eruption devastated the nearby Minoan settlement at Akrotiri on Santorini, which was entombed in a layer of pumice. It is believed that the eruption also severely affected the Minoan population on Crete, although the extent of the impact is debated. Early theories proposed that ashfall from Thera on the eastern half of Crete choked off plant life, causing starvation of the local population. However, after more thorough field examinations, this theory has lost credibility, as it has been determined that no more than 5 mm (0.20 in) of ash fell anywhere on Crete. Other theories have been proposed based on archeological evidence found on Crete indicating that a tsunami, likely associated with the eruption, impacted the coastal areas of Crete and may have severely devastated the Minoan coastal settlements. A more recent theory is that much of the damage done to Minoan sites resulted from a large earthquake that preceded the Thera Eruption.
Significant Minoan remains have been found above the Late Minoan I era Thera ash layer, implying that the Thera eruption did not cause the immediate downfall of the Minoans. As the Minoans were a sea power and depended on their naval and merchant ships for their livelihood, the Thera eruption likely caused significant economic hardship to the Minoans, and the loss of empire in the long run.
Whether these effects were enough to trigger the downfall of the Minoan civilization is under intense debate. The Mycenaean conquest of the Minoans occurred in Late Minoan II period, not many years after the eruption, and many archaeologists speculate that the eruption induced a crisis in Minoan civilization, which allowed the Mycenaeans to conquer them easily.
Check out Akrotiri on Thera
*Images from Wiki Commons, Knossos, Crete art and N.A.S.A space images, combined and edited in PS.