Thera is quite a rather unique island of the Cyclades, due to its vocanic soil. The first human presence dates from the Neolithic period, at Akrotiri. This settlement became very important in the Early and Middle Cycladic periods but its exact extent is not know since it lies beneath the later city. During the LC period Akrotiri was a cosmopolitan harbour hosting a wealthy community of traders and seafarers. In the mid 17th century BC a large eruption of the volcano destroyed everything on the island and a layer of ashes (6m in places) covered most areas. After this the island was deserted for some centuries until living conditions were restored. The first indications of this re-habitation are scattered sherds of Mycenaean style around the hill of Monolithos.
In the 8th century BC Thera was colonized by Spartans. The centre of the city-state was the on the mount Mesa Vouno at the southeast of the island, but archaeological data derive from other areas too, such as Oia and Eleusis.
Most of the evidence derives from cemeteries at Oia, Sellada or Mesa Vouno but recently sanctuaries of Aphrodite, Hera (both at the entrance of the ancient town) and Achilles (near the shore, at Kamari) were excavated, reaching back to the Geometric and Archaic periods. Indeed, most important are the fairly recent discoveries by the late Charalampos Sigalas of a number of Archaic cult places in the periphery of the ancient capital of Thera. The cult building dedicated to Aphrodite and possibly Eilythia near the ancient town (Sigalas 2000), previously considered to have been a tomb, yielded a multitude of offerings, including several from the East Mediterranean, dating from the Geometric to the Roman period; the Archaic Π-shaped Achilleion at the harbour of Kamari produced mostly drinking vases of the sixth century B.C. (Sigalas & Matthaiou 2000-2002). At the necropolis of Sellada a possible Heraion (originally thought to be a Thesmophoreion) of the eighth through fifth centuries B.C. has also been excavated (Efstathiou 1998). Most of the buildings visible today at Mesa Vouno date however from the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
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Efstathiou, M. 2001. Το νεκροταφείο της αρχαίας Οίας στη Θήρα, Stampolidis, N. (ed.), Καύσεις στην Εποχή του Χαλκού και την Πρώιμη Εποχή του Σιδήρου : πρακτικά του Συμποσίου, Ρόδος 29 Απριλίου - 2 Μαίου 1999, Athens, 301-320.
Efstathiou, M. 2006. Thera: Historical times, Vlachopoulos, A. G. (ed.) Archaeology: Aegean Islands, Αthens, 320-325.
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Sperling, J. W. 1973. Thera and Therasia (Ancient Greek cities 22), Athens.