Yesterday I noticed that my husband was looking as some pictures of our Sabbatical journey two summers ago. My eyes fell on one of his pictures of Akrotiri which is a little village on the south end of the island of Santorini in Greece. Right next to the village is an archaeological dig into what is called Ancient Akrotiri.
Ancient Akrotiri is the remains of a village of 30,000 people who were living on Santorini in 1500 B.C. when the volcano at the center of Island exploded, collapsing the core of Santorini and reducing the island to only the rim of its original shape. Like Pompeii the resulting lava acted as a natural preservative for the town, only the Akrotiri eruption happened 1500-1600 years earlier that Ponpeii’s. Unlike Pompei there are no human remains, and the most valuable personal items are not present indicating the people had time to pack up their valuables and leave the Island. These people were the Ancient Minoans, originally from Crete. It’s likely they returned to Crete for safety, but the volcanic eruption on Santorini created a huge tidal wave estimated to have been 820 ft high moving at a speed of 217 miles per hour. It reached Crete in half an hour, and many historians believe this tidal wave is what destroyed the Minoan civilization.
Visiting the archeological site of this ancient community was a pretty awesome experience. I can hardly do justice to describing this ancient civilization. Their homes were surprisingly large with several rooms in each home. Many of them were two and three stories high with steps leading from one floor to another. They had running water, indoor lavatories and a city sewer system! They also had incredible artwork on the walls – most of which has been taken to the Archeological museum in Athens in order to preserve these treasures.
I remember being stunned by the advance nature of the Minoan civilization at Akrotiri as I tour the site of the dig. I guess I expected people living on an island 1500 years before Christ to be living in tents or huts. How could these people have had 3 story buildings, running water, lavatories, city sewer systems and such beautiful artwork, I wondered, when 100 years ago most Americans were still using outhouses? As I continued to ponder, I realized I had bought into the assumption that we, in the 21st century, are somehow smarter and more cultured than ancient peoples. It’s a dangerous assumption.
Long before we were born ancient peoples lived and worked and loved and invented and created. It is who God created us to be. Just as we marvel as some of the wonderful developments of our own time, we can also pause to marvel as the amazing ingenuity and artistry of days gone by. And although we shake our heads at the ancient Minoans for not anticipating the tidal wave that would destroy their civilization, we need to also remember that a microscopic virus has recently brought our world to its knees. Maybe we aren’t so different.
Paul writes in the book of Romans, “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” (Rom. 15:4) We would do well to listen to our parents and grandparents and the generations that came before… long before. There is wisdom, honor and beauty in the years, and even centuries that came before.
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