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We started out on Santorini, where the highlight for me was our visit to the Bronze Age town of Akrotiri, which is very reminiscent in many ways of Pompeii. The town was completely destroyed and buried under 60m of ash when the volcano of Thera blew its top (in 1500BC if you ask an archaeologist, 1630BC if you ask a geophysicist – they can’t agree!). Unlike in Pompeii however, no bodies have been found preserved in the town, which makes it likely that the inhabitants had enough warning to flee in advance of the eruption.

Bronze Age two-story house in Akrotiri

Bronze Age two-storey house in Akrotiri

Akrotiri was a surprisingly sophisticated place, considering its age. There were two storey houses with latrines and drains, and frescoes on the walls (the best ones now are in the National Museum in Athens, but there were some on display in the local archaeological museum). There is a theory that a folk memory of the destroyed town was the inspiration for the much later story of Atlantis.

Christopher and I went there about 15 years ago, and were very impressed with it. Unfortunately, a few years later part of the modern roof structure protecting the site collapsed, killing a tourist, and the whole place was closed for many years while the authorities worked out what to do about it. It reopened just a few years ago, with (hopefully!) a more substantial roof, and is very well displayed. It was very atmospheric, and you could easily imagine it as a thriving, bustling town. I found it fascinating.