Archaeology and Volcanism

VIII. Summary

In many important ways, volcanoes have proven a boon to the science of archaeology. Widespread deposits of ash create valuable time-markers, helping to date artifacts associated with a distinctive ash layer. Unusually large eruptions of tephra that have been dated by radiocarbon or other methods, such as those produced by the Thera volcano (traces of which have been found from eastern Crete and the Aegean sea floor to central Turkey) and Oregon's ancient Mount Mazama (which mantled almost the entire Pacific Northwest and southwestern Canada), can provide even greater precision in dating objects found directly covered by the tephra. Because even exceptionally large explosive eruptions typically last for only a few hours or days, in a single moment of time, they are able to bury nearby cities and other settlements with great rapidity, preserving, as at Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Akrotiri, the whole gamut of a culture's material artifacts. Volcanic outbursts also inspire survivors to create richly imaginative traditions about the super natural forces that precipitate such terrifying manifestations of power, generating some of the world's most intriguing myths.

See Also the Following Articles

Hazards from Pyroclastic Flows and Surges • The History of Volcanology • Plinian and Subplinian Eruptions • Pyroclastic Surges and Blasts • Volcanic Soils • Volcanoes and Tourism • Volcanoes in Literature and Film

Further Reading

Black, L. T. (1981). Volcanoes as a factor in human ecology: The Aleut case. Ethnohistory, 28, 313-335.

Deiss, J. J. (1985). "Herculaneum: Italy's Buried Treasure," rev. ed. Harper & Row, New York.

Doumas, C. (1983). "Thera, Pompeii of the Ancient Aegean: Excavations at Akrotiri, 1967-79." Thames and Hudson, New York.

Doumas, C. G., Hardy, D. A., Sakellarakis, J. A., and Warren, P. M., eds. (1990). "Thera and the Aegean World," Vols. 1-2, Papers presented at the Second International Scientific Congress, Santorini, Greece, August, 1978. Vol. 3, Proceedings of the Third International Congress, Santorini, Greece, September, 1989.

Etienne, R. (1992). "Pompeii: The Day a City Died." Harry N. Abrams, New York. Fagin, B. M., ed. (1990). "The Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology." Oxford University Press, New York.

Fisher, R. V., Heiken, G., and Hulen, J. B. (1997). "Volcanoes, Crucibles of Change." Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

Hedlund, G. C. (1976). Mudflow disaster. Northwest Anthropological Research Notes 10, 77-89.

Malde, H. E. (1964). The Ecological Significance of Some Unfamiliar Geologic Processes. In "The Reconstruction of Past Environments. Proceedings of the Fort Burgwin Research Center on Paleoecology 1962" (assembled by James A. Hester and James Schoenwetter). Fort Burgwin Research Center. Fort Burgwin, NM.

Marinatos, N. (1984). "Art and Religion in Thera: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Society." Athens (no publisher given).

Moodie, D. W., and Catchpole, A. J. W. (1992). Northern Athapaskan oral traditions and the White River volcano. Ethnohistory, 39,148-171.

Pellegrino, C. (1991). "Unearthing Atlantis, An Archaeological Odyssey." Random House, New York.

Sheets, P. D., and Grayson, D. K., eds. (1979). "Volcanic Activity an Human Ecology." Academic Press, New York.

Sigurdsson, H. Carey, S., Cornell, W., and Pescatore, T. (1985). The eruption of Vesuvius in A.D.79, National Geographic Research, I, 332-387.

Vitaliano, D. B. (1976). "Legends of the Earth: Their Geologic Origins." The Citadel Press, Secaucus, NJ.

GlossaryVolcanoes as Preservers of Archaeological SitesHerculaneum and Pompeii: Cities of the Early Roman EmpireAkrotiri: An Aegean Bronze Age CityCatal Huyuk: The Earliest Representation of a Volcanic EruptionMesoamerican Archaeological SitesNorth American Archaeological SitesGeomythology: Volcanoes in Prehistoric Oral TraditionsSummary

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