Thursday, June 23, 2016

Video: "Ancient Apocalypse--Mystery of the Minoans"

This video documentary concerns the collapse of the Minoan civilization, "an Aegean Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and other Aegean islands and flourished from approximately 3650 to 1400 BCE." This particular documentary explores whether the explosive eruption of Thera (modern day, Santorini) around 1600 BC caused or contributed to the collapse of the Minoan culture. Prior to the eruption, Thera was a horseshoe shaped is and with a shallow bay in the horseshoe, mostly taken up by a smaller island (so, basically, there was an outer island "wall" or "shell" protecting a smaller island surrounded by a sea passageway). The center island obviously was a prime port with the possibility of ships being able to land a full 360 degrees around the island, with all being in a protected harbor. Because Thera lay north of Crete, the island would have been a natural trading port between Crete, where the Minoan government was centered, the Balkan and Peloponnese peninsulas, and Asia Minor. The documentary suggests that this city would fill a similar role that Hong Kong plays in the Far East, as center of international trade (and, probably, finance).

The eruption destroyed much of Thera, including the central island city. That bay and city island overlay the caldera, of which what remained after the explosion, collapsed forming a deep bay. The ash plume would have been 26 miles high. A tidal wave produced by the explosion would have destroyed ports all along the north coast of Crete. The explosion likely rivaled that of the 1815 Tambora explosion; the amount of sulfur dioxide thrown into the atmosphere likely reduced global temperatures, perhaps for several years. Certainly, it is likely that the Minoans experienced crop failures.

The Minoan civilization did not collapse immediately, but it appears to have entered a period of decline, with new or alien religions popping up in the rural areas. The Minoan period ended with either invasion, civil war, or both. The grand palace at Knossos was abandoned and gave rise to the myth of King Minos and the maze in which the Minotaur was kept.

I find this documentary to be interesting in several ways. First, I see it fulfilling many of the traits of collapse as described by Tainter. The Minoan civilization was an old and wealthy civilization by the time of the explosion of Thera. The sheer magnitude of the palace at Knossos demonstrates the amount of wealth that must have been needed to maintain the elite. Moreover, public works (running water and sewers) would have required a significant expenditure. It is likely that by the time of the Thera eruption, the civilization had reached a level of complexity where new laws and public works were producing a negative return on investment. With resources stretched thin, a sudden disaster--the loss of much of the ships and ports on which it relied, as well as the complete destruction of its major seaport--was more than the civilization could mitigate. Moreover, if you put yourself in the shoes of the "average" Minoan, you could see how a disaster of this magnitude could be seen as a judgment of the gods, and therefore destroying much of the legitimacy of the ruling class. This seems to be evidenced by the fact that a new rival religion arose in rural areas of Crete.

Second, I find the collapse of Minoan civilization to have many similarities to events outlined in Chapter 8 of the Revelation, when the Seventh Seal is opened; like those events writ small. Obviously, we don't know if the Minoans had been warned by some unknown ancient prophet, but certainly they were oblivious to the impending disaster. Similarly, when the Seventh Seal is opened, there will be a short silence in heaven. I interpret this as a period of time when God will withdraw his spirit from the world (not necessarily the righteous, but the world at large), fulfilling the statement that Lord's spirit would not always strive with man. (Genesis 6:3). (See also 2 Nephi 26:11) ("For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction, and this grieveth my soul."). Then we hear of lightning and thunder and an earthquake, followed by hail and fire, and a mountain "burning with fire" cast into the sea. While there are several possible explanations for this, it would certainly match one or more massive volcanic explosions. Next, John's Revelation describes the fall from heaven of the star called Wormwood. While I believe this may be a meteor or some other physical object, I also recognize that heavenly bodies (including stars) are used to represent or designate heavenly or supernatural personages. Thus, this could be an angel of some sort coming to the earth to spread destruction. In any event, poisoned waters could be a result of major volcanic activity, whether from ash falls, sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid, or some other contaminants. Finally, after all of this, the Revelation describes spreading war and conflict--just as experienced by the Minoans as their civilization collapsed.

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