Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A culture shaped by natural disasters
Those who lived on ancient Thera often attributed the island’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to the wrath of the gods. But this mythmaking that arose from the need to explain the chronic destruction also contributed greatly to the creation of the island’s culture, a leading archaeologist said last week.

“The volcano of Thera was a permanent challenge to local residents, to which they came up with various responses,” said Professor Christos Doumas, director of the Akrotiri excavations on Santorini, in a lecture last Thursday at the Archaeological Society.

Doumas noted that the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri suffered numerous earthquakes in the course of its 3,000-year history, which shaped it both physically and socially.

Interesting article. Most intriguing (I thought) was the suggestion that the inhabitants learned some methods to earthquake-proof their houses, by (in one example) using pumice under the foundations of walls acting as a shock absorber. Would this work? Seems like the pore space between the rocks would absorb some of the movement. They also note some sort of "wooden webs" used in multi-story construction. Something like reinforcing, like rebar in concrete?