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View from Akrotiri, the Minoan Pompeii.  In ancient times, the door and window frames would have been wood fitted together with wooden pegs; today, they are concrete, modeled after casts taken when archaeologists pumped plaster into voids in the compacted ash where organic material had deteriorated.

Minoan architecture made such liberal use of wooden tie beams, uprights, pillars, and door and window frames that some experts believe this practice contributed to the deforestation of Crete.  One reason the Minoans might have done this was that the wood construction helped reinforce buildings against seismic stresses.

As you can see, though, the Minoans managed some rather generous windows, when most contemporary windows elsewhere were small and narrow.  The people of Akrotiri must have enjoyed great natural light and views.

Minoan houses had stone foundations, and the visible sections of the ground floor walls would have been dressed with stone.  While the framework was wood, the upper stories were probably mud brick.  The Minoans used lime plaster to cover the walls and provide a smooth white surface for decoration, and they often plastered the floor as well.  In wealthier establishments, the floor might be bordered with flagstones, and with soft gypsum in the center.  Sometimes the floors were painted with spirals, colored rectangles, and aquatic life; the famous Dolphin Sanctuary fresco at Knossos might have been a floor decoration fallen from the level above.

Evidence from Akrotiri and Knossos indicates that the Minoans also utilized sliding wooden pier and partition doors, meaning the doors could be slid back to provide access and greater light, or closed to seal off a space for rituals, or simply to keep in the heat during the winter.


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There are still fifteen minutes in October, and on Halloween night, for me to write a ghoulish themed post.

I have often wondered about ancient sites like Mycenae. If the legends are to be believed, horrific things happened at Mycenae, so where are the restless ghosts, the cold spots, the creepiness? It’s not the sort of thing archaeologists ever mention in their field notes. For that matter, where are the ghosts of Pompeii and Herculaneum, or the spirits of Knossos or Akrotiri? Does the negative energy dissipate once enough time passes, after people abandon the area and the site lies dormant for centuries, or is it still there?


Sep. 25th, 2011 11:40 am
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Akrotiri was once a thriving large town on Santorini/Thera.  It was a Minoan outpost, which was buried under a thick layer of ash and pumice, cocooning the buildings and their contents from the pyroclastic surges of the 1628 B.C. Theran eruption.

The site was discovered by accident when a donkey broke through an eroded surface layer of ash and fell several feet into one of the preserved rooms.

During the 1960s, a handful of buildings and the streets between them were excavated by the late Spyridon Marinatos.  Beautiful frescoes and pottery have been discovered, as well as voids which, when pumped full of plaster of Paris, have yielded the ghosts of ancient wooden furniture and supporting beams.  Surveys of the area have shown that the town covers many acres, so there is quite a bit left to discover.

The current archaeological team, headed by Marinatos’s protegé Christos Doumas, are still analyzing finds from the original excavation.  These days, conservation takes precedence over excavation, and no further digging can be done until the archaeologists can assure the preservation of whatever artifacts and structures come out of the ground.  The site was roofed over to protect it from the elements, but in 2005, a partial collapse killed a tourist.  It takes money to repair and maintain that roofing, and to extend it--and money is one thing archaeologists never have enough of.  So it may be a while before we see more of the magnificent frescoes and other treasures that are sure to be waiting out there.

helens_daughter: (Default)

Render this exquisitely carved side table in polished oak or mahogany, and it would fit right into a Victorian drawing room.

It is a plaster cast of a Minoan table that once stood in a house in Akrotiri some 3,600 years ago.  The late Spyridon Marinatos and his team of excavators pumped plaster of Paris into a void of hardened ash; once it set, the ghost of an elaborate table emerged from the ash.  Rattan beds, chairs, and wooden beams have also been cast.

March 2012

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