Bronze Age

Volcanoes coming to get you #Thera #Eruption #BronzeAge #Archeology

Pyroclastic_flows_at_Mayon_Volcano-USGS+Wiki

When imagining a volcano most people have three references, one ancient, and two contemporary, but all benign.

Chronologically, the first is the elementary school science project where a volcanic eruption is simulated with baking soda and vinegar. This is notable for its universality and irrelevancy. While it does demonstrate an interesting chemical reaction, it has nothing in common with volcanoes.

Pahoehoe_toe USGS+Wiki

In the United States, Hawaiian volcanoes might be introduced next. These volcanoes are active today and are famous for slow-moving lava flows. The lava is beautiful and hot, but nothing to fear.

Pompeii-Street alago+wiki

Finally, we have the Mount Vesuvius eruption and the city of Pompeii. While this volcano killed many people in 79 AD, the quaint ruins do not elicit a fear of volcanoes.

Let’s talk about real volcanoes…

Here is the remnant of a volcano that erupted around 3,500 years ago (the exact date is still open to research and debate). This is the present-day island of Santorini. It is a volcanic caldera with a radius of about 4 miles (6 km). Around 1500-1600 BCE the island, then called Thera, almost completely enclosed the lagoon before the volcano erupted. It was one of the largest events in recent history.

converted PNM file

This eruption, sometimes called the Minoan Eruption, was a complex event that occurred over a period of time. Notably, the preliminary seismic activity warned the occupants of the city Akrotiri with enough time and clarity that most managed to evacuate the city prior to the worst of it. Thus, we find many preserved artifacts and buildings, much like Pompeii some 1,600 years later, but few of the corpses.

For an excellent detailed description of the entire event sequence, I highly recommend Tom Pfeiffer’s article at http://www.decadevolcano.net/santorini/minoaneruption.htm.

The following discusses a short-lived sequence in the middle of the Thera eruption sequence. Pyroclastic Flow or Pyroclastic Surge.

A pyroclastic flow consists of pyroclasts (pieces of fire) and hot air. This mixture has a lower viscosity than lava, so can move faster, a lot faster. A pyroclastic flow can move 100s of miles/km per hour at temperatures above 1000 degrees (F/C).

Many flows are driven by gravity like a landslide. They are also powered by expanding hot gasses, a significant component of the pyroclastic mixture. They may also pick up additional energy from boiling water and expanding steam (phreatic eruption).

Importantly, superheated water can support the pyroclastic flow over the ocean for a distance of many miles/km.

The aftermath of a pyroclastic flow is a field of pumice, low-density volcanic rock, possibly many feet/meters thick. In the case of flows that are over water, the pumice can float.

Here is a video of a pyroclastic flow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cvjwt9nnwXY

If you were there…

The first indication is an explosion accompanied by a large cloud of dust. The hot dust roars down the slope of the volcano quickly. If you are on land and in the path, you can expect to be dead in a few minutes. Historically, pyroclastic flows might kill tens of thousands of people like this.

If you are at sea, you might feel safe with an expanse of water between you and this roiling cloud of hot, possibly glowing, dust.

However, once the cloud reaches the water, the feeling of safety quickly dissipates. The boiling water increases the threat in several ways. First, the steam reduces the viscosity and making it easier to flow. Second, the steam increases the volume and this expansion increases the velocity. Finally, the steam provides a cushion facilitating the movement across the water. The end result is an expanding threat moving faster toward you.

Here is a pyroclastic flow entering the water. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLLZc1zKUt4

If the pyroclastic flow crosses one body of water and reaches land again, it will still be hot enough burn, desiccate, and destroy everything in its path. Generally, the damage of the hot front is not visible because the pyroclastic flow is moving too quickly. However, at the final extent of the expansion, the effects of the heat will be visible, including burning and boiling.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Bronze Age, Crete, Minoans, Science | 3 Comments

#Minoan #Astronomy Spring Constellations #BronzeAge

This is the fourth in a series about imagined Minoan constellations. Since the discovery of Knossos by Arthur Evans in 1900, many sites have been discovered, including the exceptionally well-preserved city of Akrotiri on the island of Thera (now Santorini). However, the written record in Linear A is sparse and indecipherable. Academics have differing interpretations of the evidence. Some see kings and palaces, while others see priestesses and temples. These posts are historical fiction and in preparation for a novel set around 1500 BCE near the peak of the Minoan civilization.

This post concerns the constellations that rise with the sun during the Spring. Also included is the one additional constellation that first rises around the Spring equinox and is generally visible in the night sky during the Spring and Summer.

spring-1-spring-flowers-akrotiri

For the first Spring constellation (Taurus), I’ve chosen is the Spring flowers fresco from Akrotiri (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akrotiri_(Santorini)). Akrotiri, like Pompeii about 1,500 years later, was well preserved under a thick layer of volcanic ash.

spring-2-young-boxers-akrotiri

The next constellation (Gemini) is based on the Boxer fresco, also from Akrotiri. Even though the fresco shows long hair, I’ve imagined this as young initiates, who have shaved heads. The initiates play a larger role in the novel, so I honored them with a constellation.

spring-3-rhyton-triton-shape

The final Spring constellation (Cancer) is a triton a sculpture from the Archeological Museum of Agios Minolaos  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeological_Museum_of_Agios_Nikolaos). Living on an island, the Minoan were well acquainted with the sea and used many marine motifs in their art and pottery.

winterspring-horns-of-consecration

Finally, I have selected the Horns of Consecration (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horns_of_Consecration) for the constellation Orion which would have been visible during the Spring and Summer nights. I only used part of Orion, but kept his belt which is the most visible part. The Horns were displayed extensively throughout all Minoan sites, and connect back to the bull jumping rituals.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this imagining of the Minoan zodiac.

 

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#Minoan #Astronomy Winter Constellations #BronzeAge

Bronze age Crete is a tantalizing period for historians and archeologists. So much is known from the archeological record since the discovery of Knossos by Arthur Evans starting in 1900, but the written record is sparse and indecipherable. This mysterious language, Linear A, leaves opportunity for both academics and authors to imagine different scenarios. I belong to the latter group and this series of posts is best classified as historical fiction and in preparation for a historical fiction novel.

winter-1-knossos-bull-jumper

These are the three constellations that the Minoans would have seen rising at dawn in the winter, the period between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The first constellation (Zodiac name: Aquarius) is the Bull Jumper (above) from the Bull Leaping fresco in the Knossos Palace (or as some believe, Temple) on Crete. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bull-leaping. Note: the constellations appear are different times of the year than currently due to 3,500 years of precession.

winter-2-papyrus

For the next constellation of winter, I’ve chosen Papyrus Fresco from Akrotiri. This constellation is based on the current Pisces constellation. Akrotiri is the source of much of this artwork, as, like Pompeii about 1,500 years later, much of the city was well preserved under a thick layer of volcanic ash.

winter-3-minoan-bee

For the final winter constellation (Aries), we have the Bee. The Minoans kept bees and Mycenaeans likely learned the skill from Crete and brought it to Greece. The Greek goddess of bees Melissa likely came from a similar Minoan god.

Those are the imagined Winter constellations for Crete at the time of the Thera explosion.

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#Minoan #Astronomy Autumn Constellations #BronzeAge

autumn-1-three-women

Bronze Age Crete is a tantalizing period for historians and archeologists. So much is known from the archeological record since the discovery of Knossos by Arthur Evans starting in 1900, but the written record is sparse and indecipherable. This mysterious language, Linear A, leaves opportunity for both academics and authors to imagine different scenarios. I belong to the latter group and this series of posts is best classified as historical fiction.

These are the three constellations that the Minoans would have seen rising at dawn in the autumn, the period between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. The first constellation (Zodiac name: Scorpio) is the Three Women (above) from the Ladies in Blue fresco in the Knossos Palace on Crete. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Aegean_frescos

autumn-2-oktopus-vase

The second month of autumn is marked with the rising of the Octopus constellation (Zodiac name: Sagittarius). This is represented by this marine style jug. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_pottery

autumn-3-ship

The final month prior to the winter solstice is marked by the rising of ship constellation (Zodiac name: Capricorn). This is represented by a fresco from Akrotiri which was preserved under the ash fall from the Thera eruption circa 1500 BCE. This preservation mirrors the later preservation of Pompeii. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akrotiri_(Santorini)

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#Minoan #Astronomy North Star #BronzeAge

double-axes-with-constellations

Bronze Age Crete is a tantalizing period for historians and archeologists. So much is known from the archeological record since the discovery of Knossos by Arthur Evans starting in 1900, but the written record is sparse and indecipherable. This mysterious language, Linear A, leaves opportunity for both academics and authors to imagine different scenarios. I belong to the latter group and this series of posts is best classified as historical fiction.

We know that the Minoans were a seafaring and agricultural society, so certainly would have carefully observed the night sky for navigation and planting purposes. The sailors’ first interest would have been a north star.

double-axes-with-polaris

Sailors in the modern era learned to follow the two farthest stars in the rectangular section of the big dipper to the first star in the handle of the little dipper. This star is Polaris and the brightest star in the little dipper. By a quirk of time, Polaris happens to be a very good north star.

double-axes-with-bull-star

This was not true 3,500 years ago. While there was no true north star in that era, a star in the little dipper was the best approximation. Thus sailors could follow the nearest stars in the rectangular section of the big dipper to the last star in the little dipper. This star is Kochab and the second brightest star in the little dipper.

While these two constellations have been called Ursa Minor and Ursa Major since classical times (2,000-2,500 years ago), there is no reason not to imagine that Minoan saw their important symbol of the double ax, and named the north star the Bull Star.

Thus, when Minoan sailors looked for their bearings in the night, they located the large double ax and followed the lower edge of the head to the top edge of the small double ax. Having thus located the Bull Star they knew which was was north.

“May the Double Axes and the Bull Star guide you safely home.”

 

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