Santorini and Crete CREDIT
My first encounter with Crete was going ashore from my naval troop ship at Soudha Bay. We were bound for Beirut, Lebanon where President Eisenhower had dispatched us to calm the scene as the Russians were massing on the Iraqi border, threatening to intervene in a local dispute. As an 18-year old kid, I was thrilled when several officers asked me to drive them up into the hills to tour the countryside. I was thrilled because my specialty wasn’t as a driver, but as an intelligence analyst, yearning to study new lands.
Always craving to drive anything with a motor, wheeled or with wings, I drove them in a 4-wheel drive jeep. I can still see in my mind’s eye the gravel road along the edge of a stony, semi-desert hillside—what we now would call typical of a Mediterranean climate. We approached a narrow stone bridge, choked by a flock of at least a hundred sheep. A couple shepherds cleared the way for us to pass through. That moment was so magical to my imagination, that I can still see the bridge, sheep, shepherds, and hillside from somewhere in my memory banks.
A village appeared as we passed over a ridge, and all the houses were plastered and painted white. Most memorable was the flood of people from the village surrounding our jeep. They were all smiling, boisterous and unmistakably friendly, some trying their English on us, then telling their comrades what we said. Perhaps needless to say, I cherish that memory, a flood of warmth over my shoulders as I write of that blessing now buried decades in my past.
Years later, Nancy and I visited Knossos, and fifteen years later we returned with our four children. On both those tourist excursions, we also visited another island called Santorini. At the time, we didn’t realize the two islands, six hundred miles apart, were fatefully connected.
To introduce today’s subject, I suggest you listen to this excellent lecture with its slide show. I wish I’d had this perspective when I’d gone there with Nancy.
Here’s a powerful and well illustrated (8 minute) presentation with splendid graphics of the Knossos city and palace complex.
DNA studies were conducted on 37 bodies dating to 1700 BC (Minoan period). It compared them with 135 other populations outside Crete. The analysis suggest Cretans descended from a neolithic indigenous population (6-7000 BC) which congregated on the Lassithi Plateau and subsequently added Minoans over the period 2400-1700 BC. This study seems embryonic and perhaps a bit jingoistic. I’ll expand the DNA reference with this (less academic) video. Later DNA analysis will hopefully deepen this avenue of research.
Completing the story, this (47 minute) video titled The Ancient Apocalypse of the Minoans completes the story revealing the relationship between Santorini (aka Thera) and Minoan Crete.
Thanks for visiting,
R. E. J. Burke