1600 B.C. eruption was bigger than thought
August 25, 2006
Scientists have learned the second largest volcanic eruption in human history -- the Bronze Age eruption -- was much larger than thought.
Researchers from the University of Rhode Island and the Hellenic Center for Marine Research in Athens, Greece (using techniques similar to those employed by oil companies to search for offshore deposits), earlier this year found deposits of volcanic pumice and ash up to 260 feet thick extending more than 15 miles in all directions from the Greek island of Santorini.
These deposits have changed our thinking about the total volume of erupted material from the Minoan eruption, said URI volcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson.
Sigurdsson and colleague Steven Carey estimate about 60 cubic kilometers of magma and rock erupted from the volcano around 1600 B.C.
The eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in 1815 is the largest known volcanic eruption, ejecting approximately 100 cubic kilometers of material.
The Santorini eruption likely had far-reaching impacts on the environment and civilizations in the region, the scientists said.
The much-smaller Krakatau eruption of 1883 in Indonesia created a 100-foot-high tsunami that killed 36,000 people, as well as pyroclastic flows that traveled 25 miles across the surface of the seas killing 1,000 people on nearby islands.
The eruption may also have had an enormous impact on Mediterranean mythology.
- I have no doubt that every myth is based on some event, and so is the myth of Atlantis. An event of this magnitude must have left its imprint.
the University of Rhode Island's Sigurdsson said. Sigurdsson also sees traces of Santorini in a Greek poem called the Theogony, composed by Hesiod about 800 years after the eruption. The poem describes an epic battle between giants and the Greek gods and includes imagery of a great battle far out at sea. Hesiod must have picked up the story as folklore handed down from survivors close enough to see the event but not close enough to know what happened, Siggurdsson says.
- He uses all the terminology one would use in describing an eruption. The people who lived close enough to see that it was a volcano were all killed. The rest could only describe it in supernatural terms.
More on Atlantis Eruption Twice as Big as Previously Believed - National Geographic News
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