Akrotiri, The Mythical "Minoan Pompeii," Reopens to the Public After Arduous Seven-Year Shutdown

Akrotiri, The Mythical "Minoan Pompeii," Reopens to the Public After Arduous Seven-Year Shutdown
The prehistoric Site of Akrotiri, Santorini
(Courtesy Klearchos Kapoutsis via Flickr)

The Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri, home to some of the world's most prized artifacts of Minoan civilization and culture, has been reopened to the public following a tragic accident seven years ago in which a British tourist was killed and several others were injured. Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the beaming Deputy Culture and Tourism Minister Petros Alivizatos said the opening would attract visitors and stimulate Greece's crucial tourism industry, telling reporters, "One of the most significant archaeological sites in Greece and the world opened its gates again."

Located on the tiny rocky island of Santorini, the Akrotiri settlement has often been referred to as the "Minoan Pompeii" for the volcanic eruption that devastated life there in the middle of the second millennium BCE. The eruption is one of the most violent geological events in recorded history; some classicists have linked it to the creation myth in Hesiod's "Theogony," and others have speculated that it inspired the myth of Atlantis. As happened to its Italian cousin, the rock and ash that enveloped the city were fortunately hardy enough to preserve for centuries the local architecture, sculpture, pottery, and frescoes — many of which have kept their color. Akrotiri has been regarded by archaeologists and ancient art historians as featuring the richest specimens of Minoan culture anywhere outside of Crete, where the civilization first emerged in the fourth millenium BCE.

The site on Santorini was closed in 2005 after a steel canopy, built to shield artifacts from the damaging rays of the sun, collapsed and killed a 45-year-old vacationer from Wales. The canopy has been replaced by a more secure structure of wood and steel, and many objects that were moved to museums across Greece during the rehabilitation process are expected to return.