Elaine Meinel Supkis
All my life, I have thought about the end of the Minoan civilization. As a child, I would study pictures of that delightful people's art and culture. Everything ended in a terrible instant when the volcano of Thera island blew up. Now, using an olive branch preserved in the volcanic tuff, scientists have pinned down the date of this terrible catastrophe.
About 3,500 years ago, a volcano on the Greek island of Thera erupted with such force that it created a column of smoke and debris 23 miles high and flung ash to places as far away as China, Greenland and the western United States.
The blast also triggered 40-foot-high tsunamis that slammed into the island of Crete nearly 70 miles away and likely contributed to the downfall of its famed Minoan civilization.
Despite its widespread influence, the precise date of the eruption has been hard to pin down. Some archeologists have put the event at around 1500 B.C., based on similarities between pottery shards found in Akrotiri, a town buried in ash by the blast, and pottery in Egypt from a period known as the New Kingdom.
Radiocarbon experts, meanwhile, have consistently dated the event to about 100 years earlier.
This event is buried deep inside of many myths and religions. Despite pretending the god-entites love us, we know deep inside, the gods are wielders of death. Lightning and explosions are their favorite manifestations. This is why I prefer Zug/Pegasus, the horse that carries lightning bolts since I seem to get hit regularily, it seems.
Another study by geologist Walter Friedrich of the University of Aarhus in Denmark and colleagues, uses a single branch to pinpoint the time of death for an olive tree believed to have been buried alive during the eruption. Together, the two studies strongly suggest an eruption date of somewhere between 1600 and 1660 B.C.
About the olive branch, Manning told LiveScience, "It's the only direct piece of evidence that's come along since the beginning of the debate.”
A pillar of smoke during the day and a pillar of fire at night. Day becomes night. The sea pulls back, fish, bottom crawling animals, shell creatures, exposed, helpless, the people on the shores, full of wonder, then a deafening roar, like a god gone mad, a howl of tremendous rage and the white pillar turns pitch black and a green wall crowned in white appears on the horizon and rapidly moves forwards even as the sun is blacked out by even faster moving clouds that rain hot pumice and lightning bolts shooting in all directions and the sea towers overhead as it roars onshore and everything is swept away and the forests of Lebanon burn fiercely, the trees bending to the ground in the hot wind.
And the one of the most civilized, beautiful expressions of humanity, wiped out in an instant. They invented toilets and designed bathrooms unsurpassed for thousands of years. The elaborate dresses of the vivacious ladies were not exceeded until the rise of the Versaille fashion designers of France. Delicate, lifelike gold jewelry, sophisticated, only after archeologists found these lovely things, could we design duplicates, instects and dolphins, doves and laughing girls on swings, no sharp edges but an Art Nouveau organic curvature, indeed, the art of the fin de sie'cle was awash with art inspired by the Minoans.
The destruction of these delightful people troubled the minds of the survivors. Many Greek myths hark back to those times. The older stories of this Golden Age are filled with longing and dread. Perhaps some of the myths in the Bible refer to this event. Now that we can date it properly, many things can now be better understood.
Second Intermediate Period
1650- 1550 BCE. 15th- 17th Dynasty.
The Second Intermediate Period, is just like the first one where the unity of Egypt is lost. The dynasties lost their hold on Nubia and the Nile Delta. Small states took hold of Nubia, while the Hyksos established themselves in the Nile Delta, ruling from Avaris, and would at times represent the strongest force in Egypt.
The Hyksos was a foreign people, the indigenous Egyptians had Thebes as their capital. Finally, the Hyksos were defeated, and a new era of a united Egypt could start.
The great sea power of the Minoan people was utterly destroyed. And so were so many onshore communities. Just like we saw this last year with the Indonesia earthquake/tsunami, whole cities can instantly disappear forever in an eyeblink. The Nile's delta is directly opposite Thera and certainly was laid to waste by the great waves. Now that we have a definite date, it is no surprize, this coincides with the collapse of the Middle Kingdom and it also ushers in the Hyskos invasion from Caanan. Obviously, many populations were displaced and in the power vacuum created by the collapse of the great Minoan empire, many local warlords stepped up their activities. Normally, Egypt would be very hard to invade but not if it had lost its rulers and ruling elites in a great tsunami.
1600 BC is also when the Hittites suddenly came broiling out of the Middle East to attack and destroy Babylon. History World:
A group of tribes, speaking Indo-European languages and collectively known as the Hittites, establish themselves as the dominant power in Anatolia. Their capital is at Bogazkoy, a dramatically fortified city on a steep slope among ravines; its walls and towers enclose no fewer than five great temples.
The priest-king who makes this place his capital in the 17th century BC is Hattusilis I. He has ambitions for his people. Moving south and east with his army, he reaches the Mediterranean and continues into northern Syria.
Eager to give his empire full credentials, Hattusilis brings back from Syria a team of scribes, expert in cuneiform. They adapt the cuneiform script to a new purpose, the recording of an Indo-European language, and they lay the foundation for an important state archive at Bogazkoy.
When the clay tablets of this archive are discovered, in the 20th century, they provide the basis for our knowledge of the Hittites.
The elegant writing style of the Minoan was totally lost. When archeologists dug up examples of this writing, it was nearly totally mysterious and many linguistic experts have worked hard to try to decipher them. The Hittites left records, too, in a nearly equally hard to read format but thanks to the efforts of the Egyptians to keep track of everyone's correspondence, we had more than one clue as to how to read cuniform. Many stories about the gods come from these tablets and the earliest incarnations of modern Middle Eastern beliefs are deeply embedded in these ancient stories.
The Hittites were disloged by the sudden, violent end of the Minoan empire and of course, the climate changed for several years, cold and wet, thanks to the world being blanketed by the ash and dust of Thera's volcano. Livestock eating plants dusted with toxins died and social relations failed. Since dust and debris are not uniform but due to prevailing winds, distributed unevenly, the populations spared this toxic dust were able to overwhelm those that were exposed.
The art and culture of the Mediterranean Sea reached incredible heights during the Bronze Age. And this proved to be quite fragile. If there ever was a culture I would have dearly loved to experience, to visit, it would be, hands down, Minoan Crete. I dream of that place. Being a woman, this is especially special. Sigh.
Why is all this important?
Indonesia's rumbling Mount Merapi is spewing volcanic ash, magma has fully covered its crater, and a powerful eruption could come any day, a scientist said Thursday.
Authorities said, however, they were not ready to raise the alert to the highest level, which requires immediate evacuation of villagers living on the slopes of the 9,700-foot peak.
The mountain, one of the most active in Indonesia, is still in phase two, they said.
"It's close to eruption," said Dewi Sri, a vulcanologist at a monitoring post near Merapi's peak.
"The crater is fully covered by magma," she said, predicting "an enormous and dreadful eruption" within days.
It was a giant eruption in Sumatra 75,000 years ago that nearly annihlated humans. National Geographic:
Scientists believe the Toba explosion 75,000 years ago sparked the last ice age. The 1883 eruption of Krakatau (Krakatoa), the volcano and island between Java and Sumatra, killed more than 36,000 people, many from a large tsunami generated by the explosion.
According to Chris Newhall, a volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Seattle, Washington, much of the magma, or molten rock, formed beneath Sumatra tends to be of a very high silica content. This makes the magma viscous, or thick. The magma is also less dense than the rock it melts from.
"As a result, it tends to rise toward the surface but not easily erupt. It stalls en route and will tend to form large subsurface ponds," he said.
If fresh magma does not erupt immediately but rather pools below the surface, the upper layer of the pool hardens, forming a carapace like a turtle shell, Newhall said. The carapace and viscosity of magma below the shell prevent gasses such as water vapor and carbon dioxide from escaping, allowing the pool to grow more volatile.
Scientists can only guess how great an eruption might be. Alas for us all, Sumatra's volcanoes have a very nasty history of sudden annihilations. They can go from relatively quiet, petty events to literally blowing themselves into oblivion. We can go in a day from global warming into an iceage.
This is one of several billion reasons why we must study our planet closely, very closely. Money spent on killing each other should go into understanding this planet, understanding Her Majesty, Mother Nature. She asks for no churches or palaces, She just wants us to pay attention. Praying to Her doesn't do a thing. Nor does yelling at Her. One can only prepare for the worst for in the end, She always gives exactly that.
Women never had it so good as in Minaon Crete. We had to struggle for another 3,500 years to regain what was lost all in one, vile day.