New ritual objects found in ancient Santorini public building

Excavation of a prehistoric structure in the Bronze Age city Akrotiri on the Greek Cycladic island of Santorini has unearthed new evidence of ritual activity. The building, known as the House of Thrania, was an important place in its day. In 1999 a golden goat was found there inside a clay urn accompanied by a number of horns, a deposit that suggests a ritual purpose. Archaeologists believe the House of Thrrani was not a personal dwelling, but rather a public building and the most recent discoveries support that hypothesis.

The excavation of the northwest corner of the space revealed, in successive chronological layers from oldest to most recent, first a group of clay amphorae and then rectangular clay shrines covered with clay lids. After careful investigation of one of the rectangles, archaeologists found a marble protocycladic female figurine placed diagonally across the bottom of the shrine.

In the southeast corner of the room, the team unearthed three more rectangular clay shrines. The two smaller ones contained a mass of clay in an oval configuration. The largest contained four vessels, two pre-Cycladic marble vases placed upside down, one marble vase placed right-side up and one made of alabaster also placed right-side up.

The ongoing research in Akrotiri on Santorini gradually has revealed a place of rituals, very close to Xesti 3, an important public building with rich fresco decorations on the southern boundary of the settlement.

According to archaeologists, the excavation finds are undoubtedly related to the perceptions and beliefs of the ancient society of Thera — as is the official name of Santorini — and generate essential questions about the ideology and possibly the religion of that prehistoric Aegean society.

Akotiri’s Bronze Age society was a Minoan colony, the best preserved Minoan city outside of Crete. It was destroyed and preserved in one fell swoop by the eruption of Thera in the mid-second millennium B.C., one of the most cataclysmic volcanic events in the history of the earth. It was that world-shattering eruption that kept Xesti 3’s frescoes in such vibrant color and that kept all the ritual clay vessels and their contents largely intact underneath the destruction layer.