• That Was Genius Team

Episode 86 - A Hundred Eggs Thrown at a Wall (Natural Disasters Week)

Tom's Notes: The Minoan Eruption


Well I’ve spent most of this week shouting ‘Francis Birtles’ at people. “How would you like to pay for your groceries?” FRANCIS BIRTLES! “Have you had a nice day dear?” FRANCIS BIRTLES! “What are you doing in my pumpkin patch?” FRANCIS BIRTLES!

To clarify, there’s been lots of confusion around the subject for this week. I say lots, a little, but I was on holiday and not really paying attention so Sam has repeatedly asked me what I’m going to be doing this week and I keep saying my topic for next week and I erroneously prepared a week in advance. So don’t look up Francis Birtles folks, it will ruin next week for you. You could even clumsily put some audio over his name when you edit this Sam, something like “Nelson Mandela”.

I made a fleeting reference to pumpkins a moment ago, on the subject of pumpkins, I had a sad incident yesterday with one of mine. We grew quite a few in the summer and have them stored under the stairs for special pumpkin occasions. I went to check in on them after our holiday last week and discovered that one had spontaneously combusted. The others were all looking as perky as usual but this one had just gone SPLURT. I had actually considered spontaneous combustion for this week topic, because people dying in a burst if flames is funny right? Have you seen any examples of this? It’s really weird, it’s usually someone who looks like your gassy old Auntie who lives in a fusty house with cats. I say looks like, it’s a bold extrapolation from what’s left, i.e. the arms beyond the elbows and the legs beyond the knees and perhaps a toupee that sprung off (Boing!). It’s very odd and the moral of the story is don’t hold in your fart, particularly if your living rooms is full of incense sticks.

It’s a very strange phenomenon. It could be the best evidence yet that we’re actually just characters in a giant, super developed game of Age of Empires being played by Titans of another dimension (which incidentally is my new wave synth pop band). Every time a player needs another crossbowman, they just smoke one of their peasants who are minding their own business picking berries.

Talking of spiteful gods, I almost did this American bloke who holds the world record for the most times struck by lightning, which is funny and no one dies, but not really very historical and a bit ‘top ten!’. AMERICAN OLD LADY VOICE, “Oooo Hank, not again. If you will insist on playing skyscraper roof golf with your extra long clubs in storm what do you expect is going to happen? I told you this morning to wear your 6 inch rubber soled shoes, plus they make you look so tall and handsome! Such a dreamboat! Now you just look my Professor Weeto.”

Anyway, I’ve made fun of people dying in horrible circumstances already and I’ll be honest, the topic of natural disasters is a tricky one to make funny isn’t it? Because lots of people die horribly. I researched the Great Chinese Famine of 1959-61, thinking I might get some humour out of the fact that nobody in the Chinese Government knew how much grain was around because everyone was lying to everyone because they were fearful of being killed if they spoke up and said the Great Leap Forward isn’t working. However, the humour soon leaves when you realise that tens of millions of people died as a result of this incompetence and there was widespread cannibalism, murder (often of children and loved ones), forced prostitution for food and general desperation and misery but if you spoke the truth in the hope of saving people from hunger, you’d probably be killed anyway. Don’t fucking vote for the Democrats guys! Fucking Commies! TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP!

When this goes out we’ll know which geriatric has won the election won’t we? How exciting.

Anyway, with that incredibly long intro designed to buy me time because I only started my research today due to clerical errors (FATHER JACK fecking nuns!) behind me, here’s my main topic. The Minoan Eruption! It’s fairly well known and certainly not as far off the historical beaten track as my contribution to our footwear episode, but it is very interesting and historically a bit of a ‘you should know about this’ topic. So here goes…

Let’s start with Minoan Civilisation. It was a Bronze Age civilisation that flourished from around 3000BC to 1500BC before disappearing at the time of the Late Bronze Age collapse; we’ve discussed this one on a few occasions, think Sea Peoples. The civilisation was based on the Island of Crete and other Aegean islands. These people on the island of Crete were called Cretans but we’ve got to be careful not to mix them up with their neighbours on the Island of Cret, the Cretins. “How do you wear a mask? I think you shove one up each nostril?” “How far is 2 meters? I think it’s closer than we would normally stand to people, so we need to get closer to strangers in supermarkets”. “This hand washing thing is fun! I used to go straight from wiping my bum to eating enchiladas”.

Minoan Civilisation is probably best known for the palace of King Minos (hence Minoan) at Knossos, the labyrinth of the Minotaur and old Theseus saggy socks who luckily, caught a thread of his left sock when he entered the labyrinth and thus he found a way back out of the labyrinth following the ever fainter smell of his dusty fusty socks. Socks and sandals aye? Come on Theseus, it’s not cool.

There’s also a link to another famous figure from Greek mythology; Daedalus. He actually designed the labyrinth for King Minos. King Minos, being the thankful person that he is, then locked him in a tower to ensure that he stayed schtum about the labyrinth. There’s gratitude for you. Anyway, Daedalus and his son Icarus eventually escaped the tower by making themselves wings. Silly Icarus flew too close to the sun though didn’t he? That’s because he wasn’t a Cretan like his father, he was Cretin.

The belief that the Palace of Knossos was the location of the labyrinth is sketchy and based on the fact that the palace, which was excavated at the start of the 20th century, was so complex that it resembled a labyrinth. The sites also had lots of wall paintings of bulls; the civilisation was big into bull leaping and a famous statue of an individual leaping a bull was discovered there during the early 20th century excavations.

Talking of bulls, the Minotaur is a beautiful bit of weird Greek mythology that probably doesn’t get the ‘that’s fricking weird’ attention it deserves because it’s a familiar story. The Minotaur was the love child of King Minos’s wife and a beautiful white bull given to King Minos by Posiedon. You see silly Minos (who momentarily behaved like the neighbouring Cretins) had promised to sacrifice the bull to the gods but when it arrived by Poseidon Post, he unwrapped it and thought it too lovely to sacrifice. We all know that you don’t fuck with the gods, so they made his wife fall in love with, and shag a bull. Pretty gross, unless you’re into that kidda of stuff, CREEPY STUTTERING NERD VOICE “how about tonight you fuck a bull and I watch? That’d be nice.”

Anyway, in a nutshell, Minoan civilisation was very advanced. Unfortunately for the Minoans, a neighbouring island, the island of Santorini, nee Thera, exploded in around 1600BC. It was one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in human history, a rare 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (so one occurs every 500 to 1000 years). So there have been at least 10 explosions of this size in the last 10,000 years. The VEI scale goes as high as an 8 and the last one of these was (NZ ACCENT) Lake Taupo’s Oruanui Eruption about 26,000 years ago. I almost discussed another volcanic eruption of Lake Taupo (which is on the North Island of New Zealand) because fascinatingly, it erupted in around 200AD and the impact of it was felt in the northern hemisphere; it has been suggested that the following quote from Herodian of Antioch, the Roman Historian, demonstrates this:

IN THAT time of crisis a number of divine portents occurred. Stars remained visible during the day; other stars, extending to an enormous length, seemed to be hanging in the middle of the sky. Abnormal animals were born, strange in shape and deformed of limb. 2. But the worst portent of all, which aggravated the present crisis and disturbed those who employ auguries and omens to predict the future, was this. Although no massing of dark clouds and no thunderstorm preceded it, and only a slight earthquake occurred |35 beforehand, either as a result of a lightning bolt at night or a fire which broke out after the earthquake, the temple of Peace,18 the largest and most beautiful building in the city, was totally destroyed by fire.

A Chinese writer, Fan Ye, also refers to strange meteorological happenings around the same time. Mount Tambora, that blew in 1815, was also a 7 and the effects of this across the world are well detailed in contemporary sources. Just think of the damage an earthquake of this scale would do today? Particularly now that he world is so populated. Imagine what an 8 would be like? And it could happen. Any minute. Civilisation is fragile.

What exactly happened when the volcano erupted is obviously debated. There might have been tsunamis, earthquakes prior to the eruption may have caused lots of damage, it may have been ash clouds that caused much of the death. There may not have even been much death. An earthquake prior to the eruption may have been the signal to get to the boats and get well clear.

Regardless, it’s hard to disagree with the argument that the eruption hit the Minoan Civilisation hard and played a role in its eventual demise of Minoan Civilisation. The Mycenaeans (so this is the Greece of Homer) almost completely supplanted the Minoans in the late Bronze Age and Minoan Civilisation, and Mycenaean civilisation, disappeared in the Late Bronze Age Collapse.

What I think is very interesting about this event is that it is very possibly and plausibly led to many well know stories from history. For example, The Battle of the Titans, from Hesiod and a few other sources I think, which tells the story of how the Greek gods overcame their predecessors the Titans, could easily be an interpretation of the cataclysmic events; remember, scientific knowledge was limited back then, so other explanations were found.

Plato’s story of Atlantis could be related to this eruption. It’s also possible that the story of the Exodus of the Israelites in the Old Testament was influenced by this event. For example, when the Israelites flee Egypt, the sea parts and allows the Israelites through, but drowns the Egyptian pursuers; tsunami right? The Plagues of Egypt, there are 10, some could all have been caused by an eruption:

1. Turning water to blood? Tsumani type stuff

2. Frogs? They live in volcanoes and get splurted out during eruptions

3. Pestilence

4. Boils on peoples skin? I dunno!

5. Thunderstorms of hail and fire!

6. Darkness for three days

Regardless of whether you think these hypothesis are valid, they’re still fun and there is no doubt that the eruption of Thera was a big deal and hopefully wiped out the island of Cret. “What’s that stuff flying towards me? Oh, just big rocks. Nothing to worry about. CLONK!”

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