LOST MORE THAN THOUSAND YEARS AND NOW REVEALED FOR ALL TO SEE
"One of the most important art historical discoveries of all time" David Keys, The Independent on Sunday
Exploration work has been carried out on the site of Akrotiri on the island of Santorini - ancient Thera - since 1967. The wall paintings discovered there comprise the largest and best preserved artistic assemblage from any period known to this day in the Aegean. In technique, style and content they form an invaluable field of study for archaeologists as well as art historians, botanists, zoologists and many other scholars. In fact they provide an immense wealth of information on the art, the economy, religion, environment, and everyday life of the first half of the second millennium BC.
During the late Bronze Age period the Thera volcano erupted with tremendous force, covering the island with layers of volcanic ash and pumice in some places 60 metres thick. A thriving town near the modern community of Akrotiri was thus engulfed and lay buried until the second half of the present century.
Akrotiri is now generally recognised as one of the most completely preserved prehistoric sites, not only in Greece but also in Europe and perhaps even the world.
The results of the excavation work which begun under the late Professor Spyridon Marinatos and was continued after his death by Professor Ch. Doumas are quite spectacular. From beneath a seal of volcanic rock emerged a whole network of streets and squares, houses and public buildings, still standing to height of two and three storeys. The buildings were found complete with their contents, having been abandoned by the inhabitants as they fled from the erupting volcano. Astonishingly well - preserved beneath the protective layer of volcanic ash, the wall paintings begun to emerge from almost the very beginning of the excavation.
They show a wide range of compositions depicting every day life, ritual ceremony, flora, fauna as well as decorative patterns of surprising colour and creative form. Some of these scenes, bearing vivid witness to Bronze Age life and to the final day of ancient Akrotiri's life, were found in fragments at the base of the walls they had once decorated - these fragments were then reassembled; others were found still in situ on the inner walls of the buildings.
These pictorial treasures were carefully removed, restored and reassembled by a team of experts who had proved their high technical skill in the conservation of Byzantine frescoes. The task of fitting together fragments from the same painting and the subsequent conservation of the final composition still continues today. Some 41 scenes have been restored to date and cover a surface area of 140 m2.
Some of the original frescoes [wall-painting of bare-breasted female figure, Blue Monkeys, Adorant Monkeys, African, Bird, Floral motifs] are displayed in the New Museum at Fira, in Santorini, and three [Spring Fresco (Lillies), Boxing boys and Antilopes] at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. The majority of the compositions are carefully stored in the Excavation site awaiting provision of a suitable location were they can be shown to the public. To further attract attention to the unique findings of Akrotiri, the Thera Foundation - Petros M. Nomikos had been involved in two major projects: the organization of the International Symposium "The Wall Paintings of Thera" and the Exhibition of the Reproductions of the Wall Paintings.