Original Paper


, Volume 100, Issue 7, pp 683-689

First online:

Ancient pests: the season of the Santorini Minoan volcanic eruption and a date from insect chitin

  • Eva PanagiotakopuluAffiliated withSchool of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh Email author 
  • , Thomas HighamAffiliated withOxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art
  • , Anaya SarpakiAffiliated with
  • , Paul BucklandAffiliated with
  • , Christos DoumasAffiliated withDepartment of Archaeology and History of Art, University of Athens

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Attributing a season and a date to the volcanic eruption of Santorini in the Aegean has become possible by using preserved remains of the bean weevil, Bruchus rufipes, pests of pulses, from the storage jars of the West House, in the Bronze Age settlement at Akrotiri. We have applied an improved pre-treatment methodology for dating the charred insects, and this provides a date of 1744–1538 BC. This date is within the range of others obtained from pulses from the same context and confirms the utility of chitin as a dating material. Based on the nature of the insect material and the life cycle of the species involved, we argue for a summer eruption, which took place after harvest, shortly after this material was transported into the West House storeroom.


Minoan eruption Radiocarbon dating Insect pests Coleoptera