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Greek Island Holidays

Akrotiri - Santorini's own Pompeii

Urns at Akrotiri Santorini

Photo: Joe Hunt

Akrotiri untouched for more than 3,000 years.

The recently re-opened archaeological site in the south of the holiday island of Santorini is one of the most important in the Greek Aegean islands.

Just like Pompeii, this Minoan city was buried with little warning beneath tons of volcanic ash with its building, city squares, shops and houses preserved in pumice for later generations.

Today, holiday visitors to Santorini can walk its streets and peep into homes that have remained little disturbed since 1500BC.

Totally enclosed by a massive roof, the site was closed for many years after the structure collapsed but it has recently reopened after years of rebuilding.

The Minoan city, buried beneath volcanic ash, remained untouched until it was uncovered in the 1860s when pumice was being excavated by the French to help build the Suez Canal.

Excavations revealed a network of paved streets lined with three-storey houses and rooms full of everyday artifacts including large, unbroken vessels and storage jars.

As at Pompeii, in Italy, the finds were in an extraordinarily good state of preservation. The ash has acted as a blanket over the whole.

Archaeologists were particularly impressed by a walls covered in superbly drawn murals and wall frescos which are now found in the Archaeological Museum in Athens.

Although researched came across many other items of Minoan life, including examples of elaborately carved wooden furniture, they found no skeleton remains of the inhabitants, suggesting that the site has been abandoned in a big hurry.

Some of the best buildings to visit on a trip to Akrotiri are a large house called Xeste 3 which has 14 rooms on each of several floors and decorated with magnificent wall-paintings.

The House of the Ladies is named after a fresco painting of Ladies and the Papyrus which decorated the interior and has a noted light well architectural feature.

The West House is a relatively small, but has storerooms, workshops, a kitchen and a mill. Rooms were decorated with frescoes of fishermen, a priestess and the famous Flotilla miniature frieze which ran around all the four walls and depicted a major overseas voyage.

Xeste 4 is a magnificent three-storey building, the largest found up to now, and was probably a public building, judging from its impressive exterior and its sospisticated wall decorations.

The size of the settlement covering around 20 hectares), the elaborate drainage system, the sophisticated buildings show that Akrotiri must have been an impressive and prosperous city.

Greek Island Holidays

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