Thera Volcano: Eruption & Facts

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  • 0:01 The Thera Volcano
  • 1:07 Eruption
  • 2:16 Impact on History
  • 2:47 Mythology and Lore
  • 3:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we will explore the eruption of the Thera Volcano on the Mediterranean island of Santorini. We'll further learn how this catastrophic event changed the course of human history.

The Thera Volcano

The baking soda and vinegar volcano has graced many a fifth-grade science fair. As most children see or create at some point in their primary school education, when the two chemicals are combined they react to form an expanding, frothy mess that mimics lava. Well, imagine if instead of baking soda you placed a few sticks of dynamite inside your volcano. Sure, you would probably fail your science project, and get a free ride to the police station, but you would have a better idea of the eruption that occurred on the Mediterranean island of Santorini over 3,500 years ago.

The Thera Volcano that erupted on Santorini changed the course of ancient history. Though historians disagree on exactly when the eruption took place, through geological evidence and analysis of ancient texts, the eruption is mentioned several times in Egyptian writings, scholars agree it occurred sometime between 1,645 B.C. and 1,500 B.C.


Scholars believe that the eruption of Thera may be the largest explosion ever witnessed by humankind. The eruption was so incredibly powerful that it literally blew a hole in the island, giving it the half-moon shape it has today. Archaeologists and geologists estimate that the explosion was 4-5 times more powerful than the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, an Indonesian volcano which would eventually kill 40,000 people. Like the Indonesian eruption, Thera jettisoned tens of thousands of cubic meters of dirt into the air, likely causing the global temperature to fall several degrees.

But unlike with the Krakatoa eruption, archaeologists have found very few bodies which date back to the event or exhibit the characteristics often present when death is caused by a volcanic eruption. This has led many scholars to believe the Minoan civilization that inhabited the island may have predicted the eruption and evacuated the island.

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