I first visited Santorini when I was 16. I loved it. It was hot, peaceful, relaxing and full of fantastic archaeology. As a budding archaeologist it was everything I could ever want and I instantly fell in love with the place. There are two brilliant sites, Ancient Thera which sits on a ridiculously steep ridge, 360 m high Messavouno mountain near Perissa; the climb is hard work but the remains at the top are well worth it. The site is vast and the remains are in such good condition considering how windy and remote it is up there. It was inhabited from the 9th century BC until 726 AD, and you can see a range of occupation layers. Brilliant. The other site is that of Akrotiri; A Bronze Age site, which has been described as the Greek Pompeii, as the site was consumed by Volcanic ash from one mighty eruption from the volcano which has made Santorini what it is today, a massive Caldera. Unfortunately you can no longer visit the site itself, I was lucky enough to go a few years ago and it is an amazing place, the walls of houses are virtually intact, massive whole amphorae everywhere and furniture, and even remnants of food… ahh volcanic ash the great preserver. Its such a shame that you can no longer visit.
So back to the present day, I have been back to Santorini several times since I was 16, most recently a couple of weeks ago. I had a wonderful break, eating, sleeping, sunbathing, swimming, climbing mountains to see ancient cities and examining 3D representations of bronze ages frescos. Yes thats right. I go on holiday to a beach resort and end up being surrounded by digital humanities.
Akrotiri is most famous for its frescos or wall paintings, which are some of the oldest examples of art in Europe (not including cave paintings). Many of the originals are in the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, which is also a fantastic place to visit, but quite a few of the original frescos are not publically accessible. So we jumped at a chance to see the paintings. The tunnels of the Petros M. Nomikos Conference Centre which hold the exhibition are displayed well and really give a sense of how the original frescoes would have been on the walls of Akrotiri. The frescos have gone through photogrammetric measurements, chromatometric measurements and tricky photography. After that came the calibration and developing of the images in gelatine and then they were finally transferred to a reconstituted surface and voila 3D life size reproductions! Cool.
You can find out more about the Thera Foundation and the 3D wall paintings here and believe it or not a UCLDH colleague of mine was involved in the 3D scanning project! Small world.