Wood of the West House, Akrotiri, Santorini (Greece)


  • J.N. Bottema-Mac Gillavry


Samples of charred wood, collected during the excavation of the West House in Akrotiri, Santorini, were analysed and identified. Olive (Olea europaea) dominated the samples, especially inside the West House, suggesting regular pruning of olive trees and use of the branches as firewood. The findings included sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), almond (Prunus dulcis), alder (Alnus sp.), pear (Pyrus amygdaliformis), terebinth or mastic tree (Pistacia sp.), juniper (Juniperus sp.), pine (Pinus sp.) and tamarisk (Tamarix sp.). Castanea and Alnus were not known before from Bronze Age Santorini. The find of Castanea is the earliest registered find of wood of Castanea in Greece. Also it is shown that domesticated almond trees grew on the island itself and already were cultivated as early as the Middle Cycladic period. The range of species in pre-eruption Santorini reflects intensive human habitation. The inhabitants of Akrotiri tended orchards of olive (Olea europaea) and other fruit trees. The environment had a typical Mediterranean maquis vegetation, the result of years of cattle grazing. The occurrence of alder and tamarisk may indicate that a stream, as depicted in one of the wall paintings in the West House, was present on the island in reality.