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I was surprised to learn, a couple of years ago, that no contemporary accounts of the Minoan eruption of Thera (Santorini) seem to exist. The eruption is an old favorite of those who would seek "proof" of the Plagues of Egypt in volcanic phenomena, but apparently the eruption occurred at a period of relative confusion in the Near East. Egypt had recently defeated the Hyksos; in Mesopotamia there was a void between the demise of Sumer and the rise of Babylon and Assyria. Therefore, dating of the eruption must rely on radiometric (Carbon-14) or potassium/argon or argon/argon dating, dendrochronological (tree-ring), or ice cores. Meanwhile archaeologists have devised a painstaking correlative dating system between cultures that relies heavily upon pottery styles and trade routes. The discovery that the geophysical and archaeological dating methods are not compatible is the theme of this book, and Manning presents the case very well. The book is rather technical for the casual reader, but those familiar with the problems of dating both rocks and pottery will find it quite fascinating. My particular field is volcanology, but I understand the archaeological point of view as well.
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