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Invasion, Not Santorini Eruption Tsunami Seen Destroying Minoan Civilization

Αssociated Press

FILE- Photo from the exhibition, Crete, Emerging Cities: Aptera - Eleftherna - Knossos, Three Ancient Cities Come Alive, wason view at the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. Photo: by George Anastasakis © Museum of Cycladic Art

SANTORINI- What really destroyed the ancient and celebrated Minoan civilization on the island of Crete and a settlement on the island of Santorini some 70 miles north has been disputed for ages by academics, with archaeologists now leaning toward invaders taking over.

Many believe the Minoans were wiped out by the massive explosion of a volcano on Santorini, which Greeks call Thera, four times more devastating than the gigantic eruption on Krakatoa in 1883, those trapped on Santorini killed by the blast and others trying to flee by water in 1646 BC drowning in a tsunami that carried as far as Crete and washed over the seacoast settlements.

But now, following a National Geographic article earlier this year, some archaeologists are convinced it wasn't the eruption that made one of the world's earliest advanced civilizations extinct some 3500 years ago.

Instead, ancient tablets discovered on Crete suggest people from the Greek mainland may have taken over, wrote the British newspaper The Daily Mail, adding that these writings have been studied for decades and prove there was still life in Minoan settlements for years after they were thought to have died out for good.

But some scientists, the paper said without naming them or backing up the assertion, said the Minoans were either assimilated into another invading culture or killed off, but there's no evidence of either yet, clashing with beliefs that it was a tidal wave that hit Crete and crushing the Minoan port at the Bronze Age city of Knossos, famed for its storied labyrinth.

Evidence of destruction dating to around the time of the eruption has been found in various settlements on Crete – and was originally connected to the Thera disaster, said the paper, adding that translations of an unusual script on a set of tablets – the language of Linear B, a form of ancient Greek – on Minoan-era tablets helped overturn the end-by-tsunami theory.

It took decades, but Linear B was identified as a form of ancient Greek.

This gave evidence that the Mycenaean civilization from the mainland had heavily changed, but continued, the Minoan culture, the report said, without adding what happened to the Minoans and why, or if, they fought back against invaders from Greece.

Scientists have discovered Minoan building material, pottery, and food residue mixed with tiny fossilized sea shells which lived only in deep water deposited up to 7 meters (23 feet) above sea level, suggesting the tidal wave did hit Crete.

But the National Geographic said the cause of the end of the Minoans is unknown still, one theory being that while the tsunami wasn't an extinction level event, it so damaged other cities on Minoan trade routes that the economy collapsed.

“Taking all the evidence available, the volcano did not directly affect life on Crete – about 70 miles to the south. No damage from the eruption has been found there,” the magazine said, adding that Cretan cities were unaffected for at least a few generations after the eruption.

The most prevalent theory instead, the article added, is that archaeologists did find evidence of an invasion in which many sites, including several large palaces in central and southern Crete were burned or abandoned.

“The invaders most likely overthrew the Minoan government and took control of the island, ending the era of Crete’s dominance,” it said as the debate rages on: tsunami or invasion?