Bulletin of Volcanology

, 76:794 | Cite as

New insights into the initiation and venting of the Bronze-Age eruption of Santorini (Greece), from component analysis

  • T. H. DruittEmail author
Research Article


The late-seventeenth century BC Minoan eruption of Santorini discharged 30–60 km3 of magma, and caldera collapse deepened and widened the existing 22 ka caldera. A study of juvenile, cognate, and accidental components in the eruption products provides new constraints on vent development during the five eruptive phases, and on the processes that initiated the eruption. The eruption began with subplinian (phase 0) and plinian (phase 1) phases from a vent on a NE–SW fault line that bisects the volcanic field. During phase 1, the magma fragmentation level dropped from the surface to the level of subvolcanic basement and magmatic intrusions. The fragmentation level shallowed again, and the vent migrated northwards (during phase 2) into the flooded 22 ka caldera. The eruption then became strongly phreatomagmatic and discharged low-temperature ignimbrite containing abundant fragments of post-22 ka, pre-Minoan intracaldera lavas (phase 3). Phase 4 discharged hot, fluidized pyroclastic flows from subaerial vents and constructed three main ignimbrite fans (northwestern, eastern, and southern) around the volcano. The first phase-4 flows were discharged from a vent, or vents, in the northern half of the volcanic field, and laid down lithic-block-rich ignimbrite and lag breccias across much of the NW fan. About a tenth of the lithic debris in these flows was subvolcanic basement. New subaerial vents then opened up, probably across much of the volcanic field, and finer-grained ignimbrite was discharged to form the E and S fans. If major caldera collapse took place during the eruption, it probably occurred during phase 4. Three juvenile components were discharged during the eruption—a volumetrically dominant rhyodacitic pumice and two andesitic components: microphenocryst-rich andesitic pumices and quenched andesitic enclaves. The microphenocryst-rich pumices form a textural, mineralogical, chemical, and thermal continuum with co-erupted hornblende diorite nodules, and together they are interpreted as the contents of a small, variably crystallized intrusion that was fragmented and discharged during the eruption, mostly during phases 0 and 1. The microphenocryst-rich pumices, hornblende diorite, andesitic enclaves, and fragments of pre-Minoan intracaldera andesitic lava together form a chemically distinct suite of Ba-rich, Zr-poor andesites that is unique in the products of Santorini since 530 ka. Once the Minoan magma reservoir was primed for eruption by recharge-generated pressurization, the rhyodacite moved upwards by exploiting the plane of weakness offered by the pre-existing andesite–diorite intrusion, dragging some of the crystal-rich contents of the intrusion with it.


Minoan eruption Santorini Ignimbrite Caldera volcano Eruption triggering 



I thank M. Benbakkar and C. Chauvel for whole rock analyses, and J-L Devidal for help with microprobe analyses. The Greek Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration (IGME) gave me permission to work on Santorini. J. Boyle and H. Tuffen worked on some aspects of the andesitic components, and I acknowledge their contributions. J. Keller kindly provided the sample of Kameni pumice. I thank D. Pyle, an anonymous reviewer, and associate editor P.-S. Ross for journal reviews. This is Laboratory of Excellence ClerVolc contribution no. 79.

Supplementary material

445_2014_794_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (521 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 520 kb)


  1. Acocella V (2007) Understanding caldera structure and development: an overview of analogue models compared to natural calderas. Earth Sci Rev 85:125–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anadón P, Canet C, Friedrich W (2013) Aragonite stromatolitic buildups from Santorini (Aegean Sea, Greece): geochemical and palaeontological constraints of the caldera palaeoenvironment prior to the Minoan eruption (ca 3600 yr bp). Sedimentology 60:1128–1155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andersen DJ, Lindsley DH (1988) Internally consistent solution models for Fe–Mg–Mn–Ti oxides: Fe–Ti oxides. Am Mineral 73:714–726Google Scholar
  4. Bardot L (2000) Emplacement temperature determinations of proximal pyroclastic deposits on Santorini, Greece, and their implications. Bull Volcanol 61:450–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bond A, Sparks RSJ (1976) The Minoan eruption of Santorini, Greece. J Geol Soc Lond 132:1–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bruins HJ, MacGillivray JA, Synolakis CE, Benjamini C, Keller J, Kisch HJ, van der Plicht J (2008) Geoarchaeological tsunami deposits at Palaikastro (Crete) and the Late Minoan IA eruption of Santorini. J Archaeol Sci 35:191–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cadoux A, Scaillet B, Deloule E, Druitt T (2012). Storage Conditions of the Silicic Magmas Preceding Major Plinian Eruptions of Santorini Volcano. Mineral Mag 76(6):1536Google Scholar
  8. Cioni R, Gurioli L, Sbrana A, Vougioukalakis G (2000) Precursors to the Plinian eruptions of Thera (Late Bronze Age) and Vesuvius (AD 79): data from archaeological areas. Phys Chem Earth A 25:9–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cottrell E, Gardner JE, Rutherford MJ (1999) Petrologic and experimental evidence for the movement and heating of the pre-eruptive Minoan rhyodacite (Santorini, Greece). Contrib Mineral Petrol 135:315–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dimitriadis I, Karagianni E, Panagiotopoulos D, Papazachos C, Hatzidimitriou P, Bohnhoff M, Rische M et al (2009) Seismicity and active tectonics at Coloumbo Reef (Aegean Sea, Greece): monitoring an active volcano at Santorini Volcanic Center using a temporary seismic network. Tectonophysics 465:136–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Druitt TH, Francaviglia V (1992) Caldera formation on Santorini and the physiography of the islands in the late Bronze Age. Bull Volcanol 54:484–493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Druitt TH, Sparks RSJ (1982) A proximal ignimbrite breccia facies on Santorini, Greece. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 13:147–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Druitt TH, Edwards L, Mellors R, Pyle DM, Sparks RSJ, Lanphere M, Davies M, Barriero B (1999) Santorini volcano. Geol Soc Lond Mem 19:165ppGoogle Scholar
  14. Druitt TH, Costa F, Deloule E, Dungan M, Scaillet B (2012) Decadal to monthly timescales of magma transfer and reservoir growth at a caldera volcano. Nature 482:77–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eriksen U, Friedrich WL, Buchardt B, Tauber H, Thomsen MS (1990) The Stronghyle caldera: geological, palaeontological and stable isotope evidence from radiocarbon dated stromatolites from Santorini. In: Hardy DA (ed) Thera and the Aegean World III, vol 2. Thera Foundation, London, pp 139–150Google Scholar
  16. Fabbro G, Druitt TH, Scaillet S (2013) Evolution of the crustal magma plumbing system during the build-up to the 22-ka caldera-forming eruption of Santorini (Greece). Bull Volcanol 75:767Google Scholar
  17. Feuillet N (2013) The 2011–2012 unrest at Santorini rift: stress interaction between active faulting and volcanism. Geophys Res Lett 40:3532–3537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Friedrich W, Kromer B, Friedrich M, Heinemeier J, Pfeiffer T, Talamo S (2006) Santorini eruption radiocarbon dated to 1627–1600 B.C. Science 312:548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fytikas M, Kolios N, Vougioukalakis G (1990) Post-Minoan volcanic activity of the Santorini volcano. Volcanic hazard and risk, forecasting possibilities. In: Hardy DA (ed) Thera and the Aegean World III, vol 2. Thera Foundation, London, pp 183–198Google Scholar
  20. Ghiorso MS, Evans BW (2008) Thermodynamics of rhombohedral oxide solid solutions and a revision of the Fe–Ti two-oxide geothermometer and oxygen-barometer. Am J Sci 308:957–1039Google Scholar
  21. Giordano D, Russell JK, Dingwell DB (2008) Viscosity of magmatic liquids: a model. Earth Planet Sci Lett 271:123–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gregg PM, de Silva SL, Grosfils EB, Parmigiani JP (2012) Catastrophic caldera-forming eruptions: thermomechanics and implications for eruption triggering and maximum caldera dimensions on Earth. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 241–242:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Heiken G, McCoy F Jr (1984) Caldera development during the Minoan eruption, Thira, Cyclades, Greece. J Geophys Res 89:8441–8462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Heiken G, McCoy F (1990) Precursory activity to the Minoan eruption, Thera, Greece. In: Hardy DA (ed.) Thera and the Aegean World III, vol 2. Thera Foundation, London, pp 13–18Google Scholar
  25. Huijsmans JPP, Barton M, Salters VJM (1988) Geochemistry and evolution of the calc-alkaline volcanic complex of Santorini, Aegean Sea, Greece. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 34:283–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jellinek AM, DePaolo DJ (2003) A model for the origin of large silicic magma chambers: precursors of caldera-forming eruptions. Bull Volcanol 65:363–381CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Johnston EN, Phillips JC, Bonadonna C, Watson IM (2012) Reconstructing the tephra dispersal pattern from the Bronze Age eruption of Santorini using an advection–diffusion model. Bull Volcanol 74:1485–1507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Koyaguchi T, Takada A (1994) An experimental study on the formation of composite intrusions from zoned magma chambers. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 59:261–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lipman PW (1984) The roots of ash flow calderas in western North America: Windows into the tops of granitic batholiths. J Geophys Res 89:8801–8841Google Scholar
  30. Lipman PW (2000) Calderas. In: Sigurdsson H (ed.) Encyclopedia of volcanoes. Academic, San Diego, pp 643–662Google Scholar
  31. Manning SW, Ramsey CB, Kutschera W, Higham T, Kromer B, Steier P, Wild EM (2006) Chronology for the Aegean Late Bronze Age 1700–1400 B.C. Science 312:565–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Martin VM, Davidson J, Morgan D, Jerram DA (2010) Using the Sr isotope compositions of feldspars and glass to distinguish magma system components and dynamics. Geology 38:539–542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mason BG, Pyle DM, Oppenheimer C (2004) The size and frequency of the largest explosive eruptions on Earth. Bull Volcanol 66:735–748CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McClelland E, Thomas R (1990) A palaeomagnetic study of Minoan age tephra from Thera. In: Hardy DA (ed) Thera and the Aegean World III, vol 2. Thera Foundation, London, pp 129–138Google Scholar
  35. McLeod P, Tait S (1999) The growth of dykes from magma chambers. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 92:231–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Michaud V, Clocchiatti R, Sbrana S (2000) The Minoan and post-Minoan eruptions, Santorini (Greece), in the light of melt inclusions: chlorine and sulphur behaviour. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 99:195–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Miller CF, Wark DA (2008) Supervolcanoes and their explosive supereruptions. Elements 4:11–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Moore I, Kokelaar P (1998) Tectonically controlled piecemeal caldera collapse: a case study of Glencoe volcano, Scotland. Geol Soc Am Bull 110:1448–1466CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Newman AV et al (2012) Recent geodetic unrest at Santorini Caldera, Greece. Geophys Res Lett 39, L06309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nomikou P, Carey S, Papanikolaou D, Croff Bell K, Sakellariou D, Alexandri M, Bejelou K (2012) Submarine volcanoes of the Kolumbo volcanic zone NE of Santorini Caldera, Greece. Global Planet Chang 90–91:135–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Panagiotakopulu E, Higham T, Sarpaki A, Buckland P, Doumas C (2013) Ancient pests: the season of the Santorini Minoan volcanic eruption and a date from insect chitin. Die Naturwissenschaften 100:683–689CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Parks MM, Caliro S, Chiodini G, Pyle DM, Mather TA, Berlo K, Edmonds M, Biggs J, Nomikou P, Raptakis C (2013) Distinguishing contributions to diffuse CO2 emissions in volcanic areas from magmatic degassing and thermal decarbonation using soil gas 222Rn–δ13C systematics: application to Santorini volcano, Greece. Earth Planet Sci Lett 377–378:180–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pfeiffer T (2001) Vent development during the Minoan eruption (1640 BC) of Santorini, Greece, as suggested by ballistic blocks. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 106:229–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pichler H, Kussmaul S (1980) Comments on the geological map of the Santorini Islands. In: Doumas C (ed) Thera and the Aegean World II. Thera Foundation, London, pp 413–426Google Scholar
  45. Piper DJW, Perissoratis C (2003) Quaternary neotectonics of the South Aegean arc. Mar Geol 198:259–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pyle DM (1990) New estimates for the volume of the Minoan eruption. In: Hardy DA (ed) Thera and the Aegean World III, vol 2. Thera Foundation, London, pp 113–121Google Scholar
  47. Pyle D (1997) The global impact of the Minoan eruption of Santorini, Greece. Environ Geol 30:59–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pyle DM, Elliott JR (2006) Quantitative morphology, recent evolution, and future activity of the Kameni Islands volcano, Santorini, Greece. Geosphere 2:253–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sakellariou D, Rousakis G, Sigurdsson H, Nomikou P, Katsenis I, Croff Bell KL, Carey S (2012) Seismic stratigraphy of Santorini’s caldera: a contribution to the understanding of the Minoan eruption. 10th Hellenic Symposium on Oceanography & Fisheries, 7–11 May, 2012Google Scholar
  50. Self S (2006) The effects and consequences of very large explosive volcanic eruptions. Phil Trans R Soc A 364:2073–2097CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sigurdsson H, Carey S, Devine JD (1990) Assessment of the mass, dynamics, and environmental effects of the Minoan eruption of Santorini Volcano. In: Hardy DA (ed) Thera and the Aegean World III, vol 2. Thera Foundation, London, pp 100–112Google Scholar
  52. Sigurdsson H, Carey S, Alexandri G, Vougioukalakis G et al (2006) Marine investigations of Greece’s Santorini volcanic field. EOS Trans Am Geophys Union 87(337):342Google Scholar
  53. Sparks SRJ, Sigurdsson H (1977) Magma mixing: a mechanism for triggering acid explosive eruptions. Nature 267:315–318CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sparks RSJ, Wilson CJN (1990) The Minoan deposits: a review of their characteristics and interpretation. In: Hardy DA (ed) Thera and the Aegean World III, vol 2. Thera Foundation, London, pp 89–99Google Scholar
  55. Taddeucci J, Wohletz KH (2001) Temporal evolution of the Minoan eruption (Santorini, Greece), as recorded by its Plinian fall deposit and interlayered ash flow beds. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 109:299–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Takeuchi S (2004) Precursory dike propagation control of viscous magma eruptions. Geology 32:1001–1004CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Urbanski N-A (2003) Eruption dynamics during Plinian eruptions: insights from the stratigraphic variations of deposit structures and pumice textures of the Minoan eruption (Santorini, Greece) and the Laacher See eruption (East Eifel, Germany). Unpublished dissertation, University of KielGoogle Scholar
  58. Vaggelli G, Pellegrini M, Vougioukalakis G, Innocenti S, Francalanci L (2009) Highly Sr radiogenic tholeiitic magmas in the latest inter-Plinian activity of Santorini volcano, Greece. J Geophys Res 114, B06201Google Scholar
  59. Vespa M, Keller J, Gertisser R (2006) Interplinian explosive activity of Santorini volcano (Greece) during the past 150,000 years. J Volcanol Geotherm Res 153:262–286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Walker GPL (1984) Downsag calderas, ring faults, caldera sizes, and incremental caldera growth. J Geophys Res 89:8407–8416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wilson CJN, Hildreth W (1997) The Bishop Tuff: new insights from eruptive stratigraphy. J Geol 105:407–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wilson CJN, Houghton BF (1990) Eruptive mechanisms in the Minoan eruption: evidence from pumice vesicularity. In: Hardy DA (ed) Thera and the Aegean World III, vol 2. Thera Foundation, London, pp 122–128Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Clermont Université, Université Blaise Pascal, Laboratoire Magmas et VolcansClermont-FerrandFrance
  2. 2.CNRS, UMR 6524, LMVClermont-FerrandFrance
  3. 3.IRD, R 163, LMVClermont-FerrandFrance

Personalised recommendations