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Santorini Eruption: New theory Says ‘Pyroclastic Flows’ Caused Devastating Bronze Age Tsunamis


Take the ferry to the beautiful Greek islands of Santorini and you will sail into a truly unique landscape forged by a cataclysm towards the end of the Bronze Age. From either the north or south your ship will leave the brilliant blue seas of the Aegean and enter a natural harbor flanked by majestic cliffs. Ferries pass between the large island of Thira and the smaller island of Thirasia, while straight ahead a small island in the center of the natural harbor, Nea Kameni, looks like a molehill surrounded by mountains.

It is on Nea Kameni, among hot springs and sulphurous vents, that you can begin to understand the natural history and formation of this island. The harbor, the cliffs, the elegant white houses with blue roofs; all are part of a huge volcano.

Sometime during the mid-second millennium BC, Santorini erupted. It was one of the biggest volcanic events in human history. In the past 800 years, only Mount Tambora in Indonesia has erupted with such force, and Tambora was responsible for a global “year without a summer” in 1816.

The eruption sent devastating tsunamis across the eastern Mediterranean that smashed into the Minoans on Crete, at the time one of the world’s most advanced civilizations .

The Santorini volcano is a caldera, a type of volcano that erupts so violently that its middle collapses in on itself forming a huge crater. How this crater came to be is the focus of a new paper in Nature Communications by Paraskevi Nomikou and colleagues. They have published high-resolution seabed maps and combined these with seismic evidence for what rocks the seabed is made of in the caldera to explain how the volcano collapsed, filled with water and might have produced tsunamis.

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The Santorini Caldera. Photo Source: ( CC BY 2.0 )

Prior to the eruption, the modern caldera did not exist. Instead a smaller caldera, from a much older eruption, formed a lagoon at the north of the solitary island. Near the modern town of Akrotiri stood a Minoan settlement, a bustling town with three-storey buildings, narrow streets and courtyards, quite different from the palace complexes found in the Minoan homeland of Crete. The prehistoric Akrotiri may have been home to hundreds or thousands of people, and was probably an important trading port for the eastern Mediterranean.

Fresco ship procession or flotilla. Frieze from the West House.

The eruption first blasted ash high into the sky , which settled back down onto the settlements and farmland. This terrifying but not immediately catastrophic stage might have given the locals early warning and caused them to abandon the island (no bodies have been found among the archaeology, which implies residents probably fled).

As the ash continued to be thrown into the air, the island would have been eerily dark with fragments falling from the sky – imagine a severe rainstorm, but of ash and dust. As the ash column grew to its full height it entered the stratosphere and began to spread out and drift east . Ash from this eruption has been found in Turkey, the Aegean islands and Crete.

In the next stage of the eruption pyroclastic flows, hot landslides of volcanic material that travel faster than F1 cars, charged out of the volcanic cone building up large fans that blocked the northwest straits and isolated the caldera from the Mediterranean Sea.

The eruption continued to increase in violence with multiple cones sending out considerable amounts of pyroclastic flows. Deposits of these flows reach 60 meters thick (the height of around 14 double decker buses) and engulfed the Minoan settlement at Akrotiri, creating a Bronze Age Pompeii and a spectacular window into an ancient civilization in the 1600s BC.

Prehistoric Settlement of Akrotiri, Santorini ( CC BY 2.0 )

It is during this stage that Nomikou and colleagues propose that tsunamis would have been generated. In Crete, 120km away, a nine-meter-high wave tore up the northern side of the island leaving devastation and debris in its wake. The waves may have reached western Turkey and even Israel .

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The seas eventually settled, the eruption ended, and the modern caldera began to form. Erosion by the sea and a catastrophic landslide opened the north-west strait, filling the caldera from the surrounding Mediterranean in a couple of days; further landslides into this full caldera formed the southwestern straits. Completing the modern geography would take several thousand years more as the island of Nea Kameni, an active volcano, gradually erupted above sea-level.

While catastrophic, terrifying and probably life-changing for large numbers of people, the Minoans themselves didn’t die out . Though Santorini was not recolonized, evidence from pottery shows civilization on Crete continued for several generations. However, as a society built on maritime trade the loss of the port of Santorini, which had direct links to the important bronze-producing island of Cyprus, might have diminished their position among the trading powers of the eastern Mediterranean.


What Triggered Tsunamis that Demolished Bronze-Age Civilization?

The historic eruption of the Greek volcano Thera in about 1650 B.C. triggered massive tsunamis and led to the end of the dominant civilization in the Mediterranean. Now, researchers say these destructive tsunamis may have been generated by the flow of volcanic material into the sea, challenging previous explanations, according to a new study.

Studies of the Bronze Age disaster led scientists to think the collapse of the volcanic crater (called the caldera) into the sea caused tsunamis after the eruption of Thera, on the island now known as Santorini. However, in the new study, scientists used volcanic and seismic data, along with detailed mapping of the seafloor, to disprove this theory and offer a new explanation.

Their research revealed that the caldera was not connected to the sea when it collapsed and, therefore, could not have caused the tsunamis. Instead, the researchers propose that large volumes of volcanic material flowing rapidly into the sea could have displaced enough water to create tsunamis. [The 11 Biggest Volcanic Eruptions in History]

Pyroclastic flows are fast-moving currents of volcanic material (rock fragments lava and hot, expanding gases) that flow down a volcano after an eruption. These flows can reach scorching temperatures of more than 750 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Celsius) and move at speeds of up to 45 mph (70 km/h), the researchers said. As this material flows into the ocean, it solidifies and displaces massive amounts of water, they added.

"This violent entry of the pyroclastic flows into the sea triggered more than one tsunami," said study lead author Paraskevi Nomikou, a geologist and oceanographer at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece.

Deposits of volcanic material up to 200 feet (60 meters) thick were found offshore Santorini, supporting the new theory, the researchers said.

Another famous volcano similarly triggered tsunamis: the eruption of Krakatoa, in Indonesia, in 1883. Tsunamis following the explosive Krakatoa eruption occurred when pyroclastic flows entered the sea, not because the caldera collapsed, Nomikou said. This well-recorded eruption caused more than 35,000 deaths and has been studied extensively by volcanologists. But the eruption of Thera may have been many times larger, and more destructive, according to the new study.

In fact, the eruption of Thera did more than blow a hole into the island and trigger tsunamis and flooding. The eruption also set off the decline of the Minoan culture, the dominant civilization in the Mediterranean at the time, the researchers said.

"The eruption was the beginning of the end of the Minoan civilization," Nomikou told Live Science. "The eruption occurred in 1650 B.C., and the end of the Minoan civilization was at 1450 [B.C.], so the civilization was destroyed completely, disappeared completely after 200 years."

To further understand just how violent and destructive the eruption of Thera was, Nomikou and her colleagues plan to continue their research on the pyroclastic flows.

"We know now that these flows caused so much damage in the area around Santorini like in Crete," Nomikou said. "So we need to better understand these flows and have the total volume of the eruption, because we believe that this was the most catastrophic event during the last 10,000 years."

The new research was detailed in a study published online today (Nov. 8) in the journal Nature.


EXPERT COMMENT: Santorini eruption: new theory says ‘pyroclastic flows’ caused devastating Bronze Age tsunamis

Take the ferry to the beautiful Greek islands of Santorini and you will sail into a truly unique landscape forged by a cataclysm towards the end of the Bronze Age. From either the north or south your ship will leave the brilliant blue seas of the Aegean and enter a natural harbour flanked by majestic cliffs. Ferries pass between the large island of Thira and the smaller island of Thirasia, while straight ahead a small island in the centre of the natural harbour, Nea Kameni, looks like a molehill surrounded by mountains.

It is on Nea Kameni, among hot springs and sulphurous vents, that you can begin to understand the natural history and formation of this island. The harbour, the cliffs, the elegant white houses with blue roofs all are part of a huge volcano.

Sometime during the mid-second millennium BC, Santorini erupted. It was one of the biggest volcanic events in human history. In the past 800 years only Mount Tambora in Indonesia has erupted with such force, and Tambora was responsible for a global “year without a summer” in 1816.

The eruption sent devastating tsunamis across the eastern Mediterranean that smashed into the Minoans on Crete, at the time one of the world’s most advanced civilisations.

The Santorini volcano is a caldera, a type of volcano that erupts so violently that its middle collapses in on itself forming a huge crater. How this crater came to be is the focus of a new paper in Nature Communications by Paraskevi Nomikou and colleagues. They have published high-resolution seabed maps and combined these with seismic evidence for what rocks the seabed is made of in the caldera to explain how the volcano collapsed, filled with water and might have produced tsunamis.

Prior to the eruption the modern caldera did not exist. Instead a smaller caldera, from a much older eruption, formed a lagoon at the north of the solitary island. Near the modern town of Akrotiri stood a Minoan settlement, a bustling town with three-storey buildings, narrow streets and courtyards, quite different from the palace complexes found in the Minoan homeland of Crete. The prehistoric Akrotiri may have been home to hundreds or thousands of people, and was probably an important trading port for the eastern Mediterranean.

The eruption first blasted ash high into the sky, which settled back down onto the settlements and farmland. This terrifying but not immediately catastrophic stage might have given the locals early warning and caused them to abandon the island (no bodies have been found among the archaeology, which implies residents probably fled).

As the ash continued to be thrown into the air, the island would have been eerily dark with fragments falling from the sky – imagine a severe rainstorm, but of ash and dust. As the ash column grew to its full height it entered the stratosphere and began to spread out and drift east. Ash from this eruption has been found in Turkey, the Aegean islands and Crete.

In the next stage of the eruption pyroclastic flows, hot landslides of volcanic material that travel faster than F1 cars, charged out of the volcanic cone building up large fans that blocked the northwest straits and isolated the caldera from the Mediterranean Sea.

The eruption continued to increase in violence with multiple cones sending out considerable amounts of pyroclastic flows. Deposits of these flows reach 60 metres thick (the height of around 14 double decker buses) and engulfed the Minoan settlement at Akrotiri, creating a Bronze Age Pompeii and a spectacular window into an ancient civilisation in the 1600s BC.

It is during this stage that Nomikou and colleagues propose that tsunamis would have been generated. In Crete, 120km away, a nine metre-high wave tore up the northern side of the island leaving devastation and debris in its wake. The waves may have reached western Turkey and even Israel.

The seas eventually settled, the eruption ended, and the modern caldera began to form. Erosion by the sea and a catastrophic landslide opened the north-west strait, filling the caldera from the surrounding Mediterranean in a couple of days further landslides into this full caldera formed the southwestern straits. Completing the modern geography would take several thousand years more as the island of Nea Kameni, an active volcano, gradually erupted above sea-level.

While catastrophic, terrifying and probably life-changing for large numbers of people, the Minoans themselves didn’t die out. Though Santorini was not recolonised, evidence from pottery shows civilisation on Crete continued for several generations. However, as a society built on maritime trade the loss of the port of Santorini, which had direct links to the important bronze-producing island of Cyprus, might have diminished their position among the trading powers of the eastern Mediterranean.

This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the orginial article here.


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"Did the Sea Peoples Come from Atlantis?". or, The Atlantean (ie. Cycladic) 'Cult of the Bull'. a Bronze Age Narrative:

{Altars of the 'Smiting God'. a Narrative:

{The 'Horns of Consecration'. the Iconic Symbol of the Minoan Bronze Age:

(Pictured [see attached link]: Composite horns of consecration Lime mortar Middle Bronze Age, 2100 - 1560 BC Archaeological Museum of Agios Nikolaos). }
[https://www.facebook.com/bronzeagecollapse/photos/a.440513622802379/469991303187944/?type=3&theater]

{"Santorini (Thera) and its eruption in the Late Bronze Age":

(Pictured [see attached link]: The archaeological site of Akrotiri on the Greek Santorini (Thera) island is pictured in 2005. Around 1630 BC, a super-volcano blew apart the Aegean island of Santorini, an event so violent that some theorists say it nurtured the legend of Atlantis [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantis].). }
[https://www.facebook.com/bronzeagecollapse/photos/a.440513622802379/469556979898043/?type=3&theater]

{Bronze Age Bull Rhyta From Thera (Santorini):

(Pictured [see attached link]: Bull figures from the Archaeological site of Akrotiri, Museum of prehistoric Thera, Santorini, Greece.). }
[https://www.facebook.com/bronzeagecollapse/photos/a.440513622802379/469869026533505/?type=3&theater]

{The 'Smiting God'. Thera (Santorini). Volcanoes. and the Late Bronze Age Collapse. a Narrative:

(Pictured [see attached link]: Syro-Hittite silver figurine of a smiting god Middle Bronze Age IIb circa 1750-1550 BC Sasson Ancient Art). }
[https://www.facebook.com/bronzeagecollapse/photos/a.440513622802379/494646350722439/?type=3&theater]

{Σας περιμένουμε, απόψε στις 18:30, στη διάλεξη του Αντώνη Κοτσώνα, επίκουρου καθηγητή Μεσογειακής Ιστορίας και Αρχαιολογίας στο Ινστιτούτο Μελέτης του Αρχαίου Κόσμου του Πανεπιστημίου της Νέας Υόρκης, με τίτλο:
«Ο κρητικός Λαβύρινθος: Μνημείο και μνήμη από την προϊστορία ως τις μέρες μας»

Τετάρτη 17 Ιουλίου 2019, 18.30,
στην Αίθουσα Διαλέξεων στον όροφο του Μουσείου.
We are waiting for you, tonight at 18:30, at the lecture of antonis kotsṓna, professor of Mediterranean history and archaeology at the institute of study of the ancient world of the university of New York, entitled:
"The Cretan Labyrinth: Monument and memory from prehistory to our days"

Wednesday 17 July 2019, 18.30,
In the lecture hall on the museum floor.
Free entrance

The Cretan Labyrinth, the complex monument built by the original artisan daedalus to imprison the minotaur, attracts the interest of the experts but also the
Wider audience from antiquity to our days. Many consider that the labyrinth was an existing monument and often identify it with the minoan palace of knossos.
But this view underestimates the variety and complexity of the reports of the ancient and younger authors in the labyrinth and its special ability to transform from one city to another. In the speech, ideas for the location, form and material of the labyrinth and evaluate the political dimensions he has hired over the centuries. This timeless analysis reveals a change, competitive and often labyrinthine about the cretan labyrinth and compose a cultural history that extends from history to our days.
[https://www.facebook.com/1004913032959420/photos/a.1004967872953936/2255482754569102/?type=3&theater]

{Labyrinthine investigation concludes the Minotaur’s lair never existed":

"Ancient Mediterranean Studies Fall Lecture: Did the Sea Peoples Come from Atlantis?"

Jennifer Finn, Ph.D. of Marquette University examines collapse and catastrophe in the Bronze Age, Oct. 4, 2018.

Finn is an assistant professor of Ancient History at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. She received a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2012 in Greco-Roman History and another from The University of Munich in 2015 in Assyriology. In 2017, she published her first book, Much Ado about Marduk, a study of textual evidence for discontent against the ruling monarchy in the first millennium Assyria. cont'd @
[https://www.unomaha.edu/community-engagement-center/news/events/2018/10/ancient-med-fall-lecture-sea-peoples.php]

Merovingians: The Once, The Present, & Future kings

The Pelasgians and the Mystical Legacy of the Labyrinth:

***Note: The following text has been excerpted from a … Ещё book entitled, 'Science and Technology in Homeric Epics'. to view the online book in its entirety, see attached link.***

"Homer. calls Crete a land of many peoples. The most intriguing connection between Crete and other Mediterranean areas. is the famous labyrith. Apart from a great number of scientific works worldwide, trying to decyphering the symbol, one aspect seems fascinating. By the 5th century BC, the city of Knossos began to mint coins, the earliest of which shows the Minotaur on the obverse and a labyrinthine tetragamma (swastika) witha star or sun motif in the centre on the reverse. In time, the tetragamma gave way to the maze pattern and a human or bovine head replaced the central star.

Late Bronze Age Apocalypse

“Human-Animal Interactions in Anatolian Mortuary Practices”. or, the Cultural Diffusion. Appropriation. and Adaptation of Neolithic Natufian Ritual & Belief, within an Anatolian Eneolithic Context:
[https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3166985463524627&id=100006396123054&fs=0&focus_composer=0]

Joshua King

“Human-Animal Interactions in Anatolian Mortuary Practices”. or, the Cultural Diffusion. Appropriation. and Adaptation of Neolithic Natufian Ritual & Belief, within an Anatolian Eneolithic Context:


Akshat Rathi, The Conversation

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Senior Lecturer in Palaeobiology, University of Leicester

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Volcanologist, Lancaster University

Honorary Associate Professor in Volcanology and Geochemistry, Macquarie University

Assistant Lecturer in Volcanology, Monash University

Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, Northumbria University, Newcastle

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Emeritus Professor, School of Culture, History and Language, Australian National University

Professor of Anthropology, University at Albany, State University of New York


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Эпизоды

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Peopling time, spatial occupation and demography of Late Pleistocene&ndashHolocene human population from Patagonia (Quaternary International, via ResearchGate)

The initial peopling of Central Western Patagonia (southernmost South America): Late Pleistocene through Holocene site context and archaeological assemblages from Cueva de la Vieja site (Quaternary International)

New Light on the Ancient Human Populations of Patagonia (Popular Archaeology)

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Junius Bird Collections from Sites Rockshelter 1, 2 and 3 (Beagle Channel, Patagonia, Chile) (tDAR)

South American Archaeological Collection (American Museum of Natural History)

Antiquity and Migrations of the Early Inhabitants of Patagonia (Geographical Review)

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A late Pleistocene human footprint from the Pilauco archaeological site, northern Patagonia, Chile (PLOSOne)

Characterizing seasonal fishing patterns and growth dynamics during the Middle and Late Holocene in the Strait of Magellan (Chilean Patagonia): Sclerochronological analysis of tadpole codling (Salilota australis) vertebrae (The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, via ResearchGate)

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When I was thirteen I visited the coastal Alaskan town of Yakutat for a photography trip with my dad. On the beach there were signs to look out for wash up items on the beach from the 2011 Japan tsunami, some of the items included dolls, soccer balls and a lot of trash. I was shocked to see these items on a beach in Alaska when the tsunami occurred over 4000 miles away. This was my first and only experience with a tsunami. Six years later I came here to Greece and learned about the tsunami from the Minoan eruption and my curiosity was piqued again.

It is known that there was a tsunami generated by the Minoan eruption in 1613 B.C from the seawater intruding on the coasts of Crete and Turkey that left a deposit of evidence behind. The evidence includes sand deposits in Crete (120 km away) and western Turkey (200 km away). The wave that hit the west coast of Turkey and the north coast of Crete is thought to have a wave height of 5 meters or greater.

Figure 1: Map of the Aegean Sea with red X’s marking the locations of Minoan tsunami deposits

Scientists know that there was a tsunami from the Minoan eruption and it is not questioned. What is questioned and constantly researched is the cause of it, which is still not completely certain.

For many years, the tsunami has been thought to be from the caldera collapse in the last phase of the eruption ever since the research on it begun. It is known that the tsunamis produced by caldera collapse are well documented from historic eruptions.

Figure 2: A basic diagram of how caldera collapse causes a displacement of water which then generates a tsunami

In a report from 2000 by McCoy and Heiken, it is said that there is an estimate of a 50-meter wave near Thera (the main island of Santorini) which generates open water waves heights between 1.9m and 17m. Velocities needed to propagate a wave of that size had to be high, which shows that the generation of the tsunami must have been from caldera collapse. Figure 1 shows how the collapse of a volcano can cause a large displacement of water then generating a tsunami, which is thought to be how the Minoan tsunami was generated.

It can easily be thought to have been created from caldera collapse because Santorini is a volcano surrounded by water on all sides. The amount of material that was collapsed into a caldera was easily enough to create a tsunami.

Up until 2016, the caldera collapse was thought to have caused the tsunami and that was the only interpretation of the event. The new theory says that the tsunami was produced by pyroclastic flows.

A previous example of a pyroclastic flow producing tsunami is the 1883 tsunami and eruption of Krakatoa. When Krakatoa erupted it was followed by a tsunami that crossed the ocean over 7,000 km away, destroying hundreds of villages in its path. The Krakatoa tsunami was caused by massive pyroclastic flows entering the water and displacing large volumes of water generating a tsunami

The recent theory about the cause of the Minoan tsunami just came out last year by Evi Nomikou. The new interpretation says that the NW breach between the islands of Therasia and Thera was closed off during the main phases of the eruption. It was closed off by tuffs (volcanic material) from phase 3 pyroclastic flows which essentially built a wall around the vent, protecting it from the water.

The caldera was then cut off from the sea during phase 4 which included hot pyroclastic flows that flowed across the island. The wall that was built by phase 3 first broke in the NW causing an inflow of water which flooded the caldera. The inflow of water did not occur until after the eruption finished and filled the caldera with water within a few days.

Figure 3 shows a diagram from Nomikou’s article “Post-eruptive flooding of Santorini caldera and implications for tsunami generation.” 2016

The tsunami was likely from pyroclastic flows during phases 3 and 4. Nomikou concludes that the tsunami was generated from pyroclastic flows entering the seaward slopes of the island. Combined with the slumping of submarine pyroclastic material. The interpretation is valid with the work done with the 1883 Krakatau tsunami caused by pyroclastic flow.

Figure 4: Shows a diagram of how pyroclastic flows entering the water can generate a tsunami. 1st the eruption column collapses and turns into a pyroclastic flow, then the flow enters the ocean causing a displacement of water which generates a tsunami.

Hopefully, research will continue to figure out exactly how the tsunami was generated, and this new interpretation is bringing in loads of new information to the topic that will be thought about by many people. Some people may not agree with interpretations and that will continue to be a struggle with science and it will always be that way. If I have learned one thing about science growing up in the U.S. it is that science is constantly not being agreed upon, and there will always be disagreement.

The tsunami was thought to be from the collapse of the caldera because the volcano is surrounded by water on all sides and the force of the collapse was enough to produce a tsunami. It is now thought to have been from the enterting of pyroclastic flows to the water. Those are the two theories of how the tsunami was created.

My first experience with a tsunami was from the secondary impacts from the Japan tsunami and seeing how a tsunami can affect places an ocean away. Now here I am in Greece, seeing where a tsunami started but not seeing where it crossed the sea and left evidence. I hope to one day go to Turkey and see the tsunami from another view point as I did before.

McCoy, Floyd W., and Grant Heiken. “Tsunami Generated by the Late Bronze Age Eruption of Thera (Santorini), Greece.” Pure and Applied Geophysics (2000)

Minoura, K. Discovery of Minoan Tsunami Deposits. N.p., 2000.

Nomikou, P. et al. Post-eruptive flooding of Santorini caldera and implications for tsunami generation. Nat. Commun. 7, 13332 doi: 10.1038/ncomms13332 (2016)


What Triggered Tsunamis that Demolished Bronze-Age Civilization?

The historic eruption of the Greek volcano Thera in about 1650 B.C. triggered massive tsunamis and led to the end of the dominant civilization in the Mediterranean. Now, researchers say these destructive tsunamis may have been generated by the flow of volcanic material into the sea, challenging previous explanations, according to a new study.

Studies of the Bronze Age disaster led scientists to think the collapse of the volcanic crater (called the caldera) into the sea caused tsunamis after the eruption of Thera, on the island now known as Santorini. However, in the new study, scientists used volcanic and seismic data, along with detailed mapping of the seafloor, to disprove this theory and offer a new explanation.

Their research revealed that the caldera was not connected to the sea when it collapsed and, therefore, could not have caused the tsunamis. Instead, the researchers propose that large volumes of volcanic material flowing rapidly into the sea could have displaced enough water to create tsunamis. [The 11 Biggest Volcanic Eruptions in History]

Pyroclastic flows are fast-moving currents of volcanic material (rock fragments lava and hot, expanding gases) that flow down a volcano after an eruption. These flows can reach scorching temperatures of more than 750 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Celsius) and move at speeds of up to 45 mph (70 km/h), the researchers said. As this material flows into the ocean, it solidifies and displaces massive amounts of water, they added.

"This violent entry of the pyroclastic flows into the sea triggered more than one tsunami," said study lead author Paraskevi Nomikou, a geologist and oceanographer at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece.

Deposits of volcanic material up to 200 feet (60 meters) thick were found offshore Santorini, supporting the new theory, the researchers said.

Another famous volcano similarly triggered tsunamis: the eruption of Krakatoa, in Indonesia, in 1883. Tsunamis following the explosive Krakatoa eruption occurred when pyroclastic flows entered the sea, not because the caldera collapsed, Nomikou said. This well-recorded eruption caused more than 35,000 deaths and has been studied extensively by volcanologists. But the eruption of Thera may have been many times larger, and more destructive, according to the new study.

In fact, the eruption of Thera did more than blow a hole into the island and trigger tsunamis and flooding. The eruption also set off the decline of the Minoan culture, the dominant civilization in the Mediterranean at the time, the researchers said.

"The eruption was the beginning of the end of the Minoan civilization," Nomikou told Live Science. "The eruption occurred in 1650 B.C., and the end of the Minoan civilization was at 1450 [B.C.], so the civilization was destroyed completely, disappeared completely after 200 years."

To further understand just how violent and destructive the eruption of Thera was, Nomikou and her colleagues plan to continue their research on the pyroclastic flows.

"We know now that these flows caused so much damage in the area around Santorini like in Crete," Nomikou said. "So we need to better understand these flows and have the total volume of the eruption, because we believe that this was the most catastrophic event during the last 10,000 years." 

The new research was detailed in a study published online today (Nov. 8) in the journal Nature.