Atlantis – The Lost Land Hypothesis and the Cataclysmic Mass Edifice Failure of the Volcano of Santorin in the Bronze Age
The catastrophic explosion and collapse of the stratovolcano of Santorin in the Bronze Age was the only large scale natural disaster in recent geologic time which could have been known to the early Egyptians and Greeks and which – in all probability – inspired Plato’s legend of Atlantis and his incomplete account of the “lost land” in the Critias dialog.
Excerpt from original description of Atlantis by Kritias in Plato’s dialogs in which he describes Poseidon’s allocation of Atlantis to five sets of twins he had with a mortal woman and the establishent of the oldest as King “Atlas”(in Ancient Greek)
This disaster was associated with massive volcanic edifice failures, enormous shock waves, extensive volcanic ash falls, and the generation of destructive tsunamis. The combined effects of the disaster had an unprecedented and legendary impact on the known early world, but particularly in the Eastern Mediterranean and Egyptian societies – the latter memorialized with Biblical interpretations.
The disaster and its associated phenomena resulted in the immediate destruction of major Minoan settlements on Santorin, Crete and other Aegean islands and precipitated the rapid declination of the advanced Minoan civilization – the “Atlantis” of that period. Furthermore, Santorin’s explosion had a global impact on climate which was far greater than that of the 1883 explosion of the Krakatau volcano in Indonesia.
Based on existing geologic data, the present study explains the complex geodynamic and kinematic changes that contributed to the instability of Santorin and reconstructs the chain of events that culminated with the volcano’s mass edifice failures in the Bronze age, around 1645 B.C..
Satellite Photo of Santorin
Extensive loss of land associated with this disaster resulted from outward crustal spreading, a series of Plinian and ultra-Plinian explosions, a massive multi-phase caldera collapse, and from flank failures – processes which have occurred repeatedly throughout Santorin’s long geologic history.
Synergistically-acting, triggering mechanisms contributed to the de-stabilization processes and to a sequence of deformational events that resulted in Santorin’s edifice failures before, during, and after the Bronze Age eruptions.
A large scale land mass loss resulted from structural instability and the multiphase caldera collapse into the empty magmatic chambers which followed the paroxysmal explosions of the volcano.
Additional massive volcanic edifice loss occurred from lateral blasts, basal decollement, ring dike collapses, and from gravitationally-induced, sector or slope failures which resulted in aerial and submarine landslides, rock falls and debris avalanches.
The massive flank failures were triggered by volcanic earthquakes caused by rising magma in feeder dikes, by lava dome and magmatic chamber collapses and, possibly, by one or more tectonic earthquakes along the same thrust fault in the NNW-SSE trending seismic zone that transverses the Southern Aegean region – where a devastating earthquake occurred as recently as 1956.
The cataclysmic Bronze Age eruptions of Santorin and the associated massive edifice failures, altered significantly the pre-Minoan morphology of the island – thus giving birth to the legend of the lost land of Atlantis.