On this Mediterranean cruise, we visited a number of historic sites. The most notable in my opinion was the one in Santorini.
Joan and I signed on for an excursion in Santorini, even though we were sure it would be boring. Boy were we surprised! We visited the ancient ruins/museum of Akrotiri. These ancient ruins predate Pompeii and tell a much more interesting story. Although there is walking involved, these seniors found it to be a very easy site to visit.
The ruins at Pompeii are a reconstruction from the stones found on the site and may or may not resemble the original city. Herculaneum, just down the road a bit from Pompeii is an excavation of a city, with the original buildings still standing.
Pompeii was destroyed by lava flows and the buildings were levelled, while at Herculaneum, the buildings were buried by layers of mud and dust. Unfortunately, in Herculaneum, new buildings have been erected above the buried city and it is prohibitively expensive to acquire property for further excavation.
Akrotiri is like Herculaneum in that the buildings were buried intact, however the buildings in Akrotiri are much older – about 4,000 years old! Most of the buildings in Herculaneum were two stories tall, while in Akrotiri they are up to five stories tall, and resemble the type of structures that we build today.
Currently, Greece is not funding further excavation of this site, but they have made it illegal to build on the area of the buried city.
Only six houses, totalling 90,000 square feet, or an average house size of 15,000 square feet, have been excavated in Akrotiri. If the money was available, archaeologists could uncover about a thousand more houses under the nearby lands. Archaeologists believe that there are two more cities buried beneath the one they are excavating.
According to our guide, the most interesting thing about this society, other than it was probably the richest one at the time, is that it was matriarchal to the extreme. Evidence suggests that only the women lived in the cities and wore expensive clothing and jewels, while the men and boys lived outside the walls and were basically slaves.
This is the only archaeological dig in the world that has a permanent building constructed over it. The plan is to turn the site into a full-blown museum when excavation is complete.
These senior travellers recommend that if you travel to Santorini, make sure to visit the dig at Akrotiri.