The chronology of the Aegean Late Bronze Age with special reference to the 'Minoan' eruption of Thera
The chronology of the Aegean Late Bronze Age is a vigorously contested area of archaeological study, with "high" and "low" schemes emerging over the last three decades. The chronological lynchpin for this period is the catastrophic eruption of Thera (Santorini), at a point in the mature Late Minoan (LM) I A ceramic period. Two possible calendrical ranges for this eruption have emerged: c. 1540 - 1500 BC, and c. 1645 - 1628 BC. The latter first gained currency in the 1970s, and the controversy focuses on which range is more probable. This thesis examines the chronology of the Late Minoan (LM), Late Cycladic (L Cyc), Late Helladic (LH) and Late Cypriot (LC) periods in detail and their various relationships with the eruption. Because archaeological methods of dating these sequences, which traditionally place the eruption within the later range, are fluid and open to re-interpretation (in favour of the earlier range), the calendrical date of the eruption is of crucial importance. The scientific arguments, which tend to favour the earlier range, are analysed alongside the archaeological arguments. Finally, the effects of the eruption, and their implications for chronology, are considered. A comprehensive catalogue detailing of all Thera's volcanic deposits from around the region is presented, as is a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) spatial analysis of these deposits which suggests that the volume of the eruption may have been up to five times previous estimates, and almost double the largest previous estimate. In conjunction with this study, a reappraisal of the eruptive rate and intensity of the Minoan event using mathematical differential analysis is presented, to provide an integrated investigation of its impact. It is concluded a) that the eruption was far larger than previous thought, and that b) a calendrical date for the eruption between c. 1540 - 1500 BC is more probable than a date between 1645 - 1628 BC.