The Museum of Prehistoric Thera on Santorini offers an exhibition on the history of the island and the discoveries associated with it, with a special focus on the most important archaeological site on Santorini – Prehistoric Akrotiri.
The development of Santorini is inextricably linked to the Minoan culture, which took shape from roughly 4000 BC to 1600 BC. The Minoans of Crete traded extensively and explored the Asian shores of present-day Turkey throughout the southern Levant (the eastern, Asian coast of the Mediterranean) and various outposts scattered throughout the Aegean served as a kind of stopovers on sea routes. That allowed many settlements and cities such as the ancient Akrotiri on Santorini to owe their high development rate to the commercial strength, and not necessarily military power.
Location of the Museum
The building of the Museum of Prehistoric Thera is located in the capital of the island of Santorini, Fira, at the junction of Mitropoleos and Dekigala streets. The imposing edifice, towering over the nearby buildings, is adjacent to the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral, which is also worth a visit.
The museum mainly collects the results of almost a century and a half of spectacular archaeological excavations that took place on the island. They were started by the research of the French geologist F. Fouque in 1867 and the excavations of the German archaeologist Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen which were carried out between 1895 and 1900 (the latter were mainly devoted to the discovery of the Ancient Thera located on the top of Mesa Vouno in the vicinity of present-day Kamari).
The Museum of Prehistoric Thera on Santorini houses exhibits and artefacts from various excavation sites. In addition to the previously mentioned Akrotiri, we can also admire findings from Thera, Megalochori, Potamos and Ftellos.
The exhibition contains interesting findings that bear witness to the turbulent history of the island. Thus, we will see geological specimens (such as fossilised plants and insects from the time before the first humans appeared on Santorini), sculptures, ceramics, jewellery, marble figurines, objects of everyday use, as well as wall paintings.
The exhibition is divided into several thematic parts. There are exhibits concerning:
- the history of archaeological research,
- the natural conditions (climate and geological structure) of the island,
- period from the late Neolithic to the early Cycladic culture,
- the flourishing Minoan settlement of Akrotiri (the most interesting part containing, among other things, the world-famous frescoes discovered in several buildings on the Akrotiri excavation site, as well as richly decorated vases and ceramics, jewellery and tools).
Exhibits worthy of special attention include:
- plaster casts (negatives) of furniture (tables and chairs) from the 17th century BC
- colorful wall paintings (frescoes) depicting women in Minoan dress, boxing boys, a boy with fish, blue monkeys, floral motifs, as well as an exhibition on painting techniques and the tools and pigments used to decorate walls and objects in Minoan times,
- A marble figurine from Akrotiri from the 3rd millennium BC,
- A jug probably brought from mainland Greece, dating to the 17th century BC,
- A Megalochori jug from the 17th century BC,
- A vase for storing oil, wine, the so-called “pithos” from Akrotiri
- Ceramic vases, dating to the 20th-18th centuries BC, decorated with zoomorphic elements, so-called “bird jugs”,
- A figurine of a golden goat dating from the heyday of Akrotiri, excavated in 1999
Founded in 2000, the Museum is under the patronage of the Prefecture of Cyclades, and in terms of content is under the supervision of an institution known as the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades, and subordinate to the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports.
The initiative to establish the museum came from the Greek archaeologist Professor Spyridon Marinatos, long-time director of excavations at the Akrotiri archaeological site.
Most of the exhibits in the museum are very well preserved, as the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri was buried under volcanic ash deposited after the great eruption of the Santorini volcano in the 17th century BC. The dust proved to be a very good preservative.
Interesting fact – at the archaeological site of Akrotiri no human remains were found and a only small amount of jewellery was found. This probably means that immediately after the eruption of the volcano, the inhabitants fled the island by boat, taking their most valuable possessions with them.
The cost of admission to the Museum of Prehistoric Thera on Santorini is: 6€ and a discounted ticket costs 3€. It is worth considering the option of buying a joint ticket for 15€, in which, in addition to the entrance to the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, we also have access to the most important archaeological sites on the island of Santorini – Akrotiri and Ancient Thera and the second, smaller archaeological museum – the Museum of Ancient Thera in Fira. The ticket is valid for 3 days from the date of purchase.
The museum can be visited free of charge:
- 6 March (in memory of Melina Mercouri)
- 18 April (International Monuments Day)
- 18 May (International Museums Day)
- the last weekend in September (European Heritage Days)
- on Greek national holidays
Wednesday – Monday – 08:30 – 15:30 (closed Tuesdays)