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Lost City Of Atlantis: An Ancient Eruption May Have Inspired The Myth

Aug 19, 2018 09:19 PM EDT
Modern-day Santorini was the site of an ancient earth-shattering volcanic eruption that spawned a debate among current scientists. Now, researchers used tree rings to provide a more accurate date on the catastrophic eruption.
(Photo : Pixabay)

Atlantis is a story that sprung from Aegean shores, likely originating from a catastrophic event that has yet to be dated.

The date of the ancient volcanic eruption in the island Thera, now known as Santorini in Greece, could have great repercussions in the study of many ancient civilizations. However, a great debate rages over pinpointing the time frame of the event.

An Earth-Shattering Volcano Gives Birth To Atlantis

For years, storytellers and philosophers spoke of an ancient advanced civilization living on an island that sunk into the ocean many millennia ago. Plato, in particular, described the idyllic Atlantis lengthily in his dialogues.

Now, the myth is widely believed to have been inspired by a destructive volcanic eruption 3,000 years ago. This eruption is believed to have been so violent that it also reportedly caused the collapse of the Minoan civilization and a volcanic winter in distant China, as well as triggered the 12 plagues of Exodus, according to The Atlantic.

The biggest debate, however, lies in dating the ancient, mysterious eruption.

The Debate Over Dating The Eruption

The new study, published in the journal Scientific Advances, uses tree rings in an attempt to finally settle the argument between two groups who place the eruption about a century apart.

Archaeologists first put the volcanic eruption between 1570 and 1500 BC after analyzing human artifacts including pottery and written records. Another group of scientists employed radiocarbon dating in bits of trees, grains, and legumes buried under the volcanic ash. The latter placed the eruption at about 1600 BC, several decades earlier than the former's estimate.

Charlotte Pearson, lead author of the study, and her team used radiocarbon dating methods on 285 tree samples to bridge the gap between the two groups claiming different dates.

"Every tree ring is a time capsule of the radiocarbon at the year in which it grew, so we can say here's a tree ring from 1600 BC and here's how much radiocarbon is in it," Pearson explained in a statement.

The findings from the tree ring analysis revealed that the eruption occurred sometime between 1600 and 1525 BC, which features an overlap between the archaeologists and original radiocarbon researchers.

The Importance Of The Volcanic Eruption

As Pearson, an assistant professor of dendrochronology at the UA Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, points out, the eruption of a volcano represents a single moment in time.

"If you can date precisely when that moment is, then whenever you find evidence of that moment at any archeological site, you suddenly have a very precise marker point in time — and that's really powerful for examining human/environmental interactions around that time period," she continued.

The Thera eruption is significant in piecing together a timeline of ancient civilizations in Egypt, Greece, Turkey and other parts of the Mediterranean.

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