April 28, 2006

Early dates for Thera eruption

New papers in Science reveal early dates for the eruption of the Thera volcano which was responsible for the demise of the Minoan culture. A consequence of this finding is that the Minoan civilization reached its peak much earlier than thought, before the Egyptian New Kingdom (as was previously thought). From related MSNBC coverage:
Overall, the radiocarbon results indicate that the formation and high point of the New Palace period of Crete, the wall paintings of Akrotiri, the Shaft Grave period of the Greek mainland, and the political changes on Cyprus all occurred before approximately 1600 B.C. This is not only about 100 years earlier than thought; it also implies that the overall cultural era involved lasted much longer than researchers had assumed.
Science 28 April 2006:
Vol. 312. no. 5773, p. 548

Santorini Eruption Radiocarbon Dated to 1627-1600 B.C.

Walter L. Friedrich et al.

Precise and direct dating of the Minoan eruption of Santorini (Thera) in Greece, a global Bronze Age time marker, has been made possible by the unique find of an olive tree, buried alive in life position by the tephra (pumice and ashes) on Santorini. We applied so-called radiocarbon wiggle-matching to a carbon-14 sequence of tree-ring segments to constrain the eruption date to the range 1627-1600 B.C. with 95.4% probability. Our result is in the range of previous, less precise, and less direct results of several scientific dating methods, but it is a century earlier than the date derived from traditional Egyptian chronologies.


Science 28 April 2006:
Vol. 312. no. 5773, pp. 565 - 569

Chronology for the Aegean Late Bronze Age 1700-1400 B.C.

Sturt W. Manning et al.

Radiocarbon (carbon-14) data from the Aegean Bronze Age 1700–1400 B.C. show that the Santorini (Thera) eruption must have occurred in the late 17th century B.C. By using carbon-14 dates from the surrounding region, cultural phases, and Bayesian statistical analysis, we established a chronology for the initial Aegean Late Bronze Age cultural phases (Late Minoan IA, IB, and II). This chronology contrasts with conventional archaeological dates and cultural synthesis: stretching out the Late Minoan IA, IB, and II phases by ~100 years and requiring reassessment of standard interpretations of associations between the Egyptian and Near Eastern historical dates and phases and those in the Aegean and Cyprus in the mid–second millennium B.C.


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