Aegean Neolithic and Bronze Age Civilizations: The Cycladic Civilization Circa 3300 to 1100 BCE
By Sally Mallam
“There is a land called Crete, in the midst of the wine-dark sea, a fair, rich land, begirt with water, and therein are many men, past counting, and ninety cities. … Among their cities is the great city Cnosus, where Minos reigned when nine years old, he that held converse with great Zeus, and was father of my father, great-hearted Deucalion.”
Homer, The Odyssey, ca 8th century, BCE.
Settlements have been located that date from as early as 5000 BCE, by people thought to have come from Caria in southwestern Anatolia (Turkey). Natural resources such as obsidian (volcanic glass) which they exported throughout the Aegean as a cutting tool, and later exports of lead, copper and marble enabled the islands to flourish during the Bronze Age.
So successful were the Minoans at trade, that from about 2200 BCE and by the late Bronze Age (ca 1700–1000) BCE, all the Aegean islands, including the Cyclades, were dominated by Minoan culture, their pottery, architecture and frescoes are all remarkably similar. An excellent example is the settlement of Akrotiri on the Cycladic island of Thera (modern Santorini). Luckily for us, volcanic ash preserved the city remarkably well until it was discovered by Spyridon Marinatos in 1967.
The Cycladic civilization came to an end when, after several earthquakes, the Thera volcano of 1628 BCE erupted, totally destroying the island of Thera and leaving the surrounding islands almost completely destroyed from the tsunami waves that followed.