Maybe a little off-topic re ancient waterways, but not totally.
I've often felt that Minoa was the best explanation for the legend of
Atlantis, especially with Santorini nearby. Here's a link to a BBC
article that offers some logical supporting arguments -
and the text --
Until about 3,500 years ago, a spectacular ancient civilisation was
flourishing in the Eastern Mediterranean. The ancient Minoans were
building palaces, paved streets and sewers, while most Europeans were
still living in primitive huts. But around 1500BC the people who
spawned the myths of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth abruptly
disappeared. Now the mystery of their cataclysmic end may finally have
The wave would have been as powerful as the one that devastated the
coastlines of Thailand and Sri Lanka on Boxing day 2004 leading to the
loss of over 250,000 lives
A group of scientists have uncovered new evidence that the island of
Crete was hit by a massive tsunami at the same time that Minoan
culture disappeared. "The geo-archaeological deposits contain a number
of distinct tsunami signatures," says Dutch-born geologist Professor
Hendrik Bruins of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
"Minoan building material, pottery and cups along with food residue
such as isolated animal bones were mixed up with rounded beach pebbles
and sea shells and microscopic marine fauna."The latter can only have
been scooped up from the sea-bed by one mechanism - a powerful
tsunami, dumping all these materials together in a destructive swoop,"
says Professor Bruins.
The deposits are up to seven metres above sea level, well above the
normal reach of storm waves. An event of ferocious force hit the coast
of Crete and this wasn't just a Mediterranean storm," says Professor
The Minoans were sailors and traders. Most of their towns were along
the coast, making them especially vulnerable to the effects of a tsunami.
One of their largest settlements was at Palaikastro on the eastern
edge of the island, one of the sites where Canadian archaeologist
Sandy MacGillivray has been excavating for 25 years. Here, he has
found other tell-tale signs such as buildings where the walls facing
the sea are missing but side walls which could have survived a giant
wave are left intact.
"All of a sudden a lot of the deposits began making sense to us," says
"Even though the town of Palaikastro is a port it stretched hundreds
of metres into the hinterland and is, in places, at least 15 metres
above sea level. This was a big wave."
But if this evidence is so clear why has it not been discovered before
now? Tsunami expert Costas Synolakis, from the University of Southern
California, says that the study of ancient tsunamis is in its infancy
and people have not, until now, really known what to look for. Many
scientists are still of the view that these waves only blasted
material away and did not leave much behind in the way of deposits.
But observation of the Asian tsunami of 2004 changed all that.
"If you remember the video footage," says Costas, "some of it showed
tonnes of debris being carried along by the wave and much of it was
Costas Synolakis has come to the conclusion that the wave would have
been as powerful as the one that devastated the coastlines of Thailand
and Sri Lanka on Boxing day 2004 leading to the loss of over 250,000
After decades studying the Minoans, MacGillivray is struck by the
scale of the destruction.
"The Minoans are so confident in their navy that they're living in
unprotected cities all along the coastline. Now, you go to Bande Aceh
[in Indonesia] and you find that the mortality rate is 80%. If we're
looking at a similar mortality rate, that's the end of the Minoans."
But what caused the tsunami? The scientists have obtained radiocarbon
dates for the deposits that show the tsunami could have hit the coast
at exactly the same time as an eruption of the Santorini volcano, 70
km north of Crete, in the middle of the second millennium BC.
Recent scientific work has established that the Santorini eruption was
up to 10 times more powerful than the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. It
caused massive climatic disruption and the blast was heard over 3000
Costas Synolakis thinks that the collapse of Santorini's giant
volcanic cone into the sea during the eruption was the mechanism that
generated a wave large enough to destroy the Minoan coastal towns.
It is not clear if the tsunami could have reached inland to the Minoan
capital at Knossos, but the fallout from the volcano would have
carried other consequences - massive ash falls and crop failure. With
their ports, trading fleet and navy destroyed, the Minoans would never
have fully recovered.
The myth of Atlantis, the city state that was lost beneath the sea,
was first mentioned by Plato over 2000 years ago.
It has had a hold on the popular imagination for centuries.
Perhaps we now have an explanation of its origin - a folk memory of a
real ancient civilisation swallowed by the sea.