Approximately 11 acres have been investigated but this is estimated to only be 1/10 of the overall settlement surface. The search in this area and on the island is made significantly harder because of the volcanic residues, ash and pumice which have covered most surfaces. In some areas, the volcanic layers reach a height of 60 meters and have concealed all traces of habitation that preceded the eruption.
Due to soil erosion in Akrotiri caused by natural causes (water, air) the volcanic layers were significantly reduced and they brought to light archaeological relics that triggered the interest of researchers.
The city was destroyed by the great volcanic eruption mid- 17th Century BC and the first inhabitation dates from the late Neolithic times. Ceramics of this era were found in the southern part of the city but this design/style didn’t influence the island’s architecture.
A plethora of findings indicate the island being inhabited in the early Cycladic period (2800-1800 BC): Architectural relics, ceramics, clay figurines, stone tools, and also burials in forms of infusions inside chambers carved into the soft, volcanic natural rock. According to Duma, these chambers are identified with a cemetery of the Early Cycladic period. The corresponding settlement of which, only limited architectural remains have been discovered, as most were either destroyed by new inhabitants or are hidden under newer buildings.
During the Bronze Age (1800-1650 BC), the city was converted into a cosmopolitan harbour and turned into one of the main urban centres and ports of the Aegean.
The large extent of the settlement, the elaborate drainage system, the sophisticated multi-storeyed buildings with the magnificent wall-paintings, furniture and vessels, show its great development and prosperity. By the end of this period, Akrotiri had created a dense network of trade and exchanges both commercially and culturally with the rest of the Cyclades, mainland Greece, the Dodecanese, Crete, Cyprus, Egypt and Palestine.
Luxury and essential goods travelled to and from the abovementioned destinations. The city reached its peak in the middle of the 17th Century BC, just before its destruction from the volcanic eruption. Locals had acquired a lot of technical expertise and abilities that are reflected in the products that we see today from this era. They were expert sailors, fishermen, carpenters, builders, stonemasons, jewellers. During this period the art of wall painting flourished. Most of the buildings that have been excavated have wall paintings in either one or most of the rooms, mainly on the first floor. The largest wall paintings were found in the buildings of ‘Ksestis 3’ and ‘Ksestis 4’ (the excavations have still not been completed). Due to these findings, the ‘Kestis’ buildings are believed to have been administrative or religious centers.
Wall paintings play a major role for archaeological research as they depict practices and rituals of this era that would have been unknown to us otherwise. The absence of human remains from the city destroyed by the volcano, reveals that the inhabitants had been warned of the upcoming explosion by an earthquake. The cemetery of the city is yet to be found, we assume that in the midst of the Bronze Age (18th-19th Century BC) the cemetery was probably moved to the outskirts of the city which had been extensively expanded and the previous burial chambers were abandoned.
The findings did not confirm Marinatos’ hypothesis, that the volcanic eruption destroyed the Minoan civilization and that Akrotiri was a Minoan colony. Regardless of the significant Minoan influence that the population of Akrotiri received, they still preserved the Cycladic trait. The uncertainty of the exact date of the volcanic eruption remains, the party that claims that the eruption took place between 1700 BC and 1619 BC and the other party claiming that it happened around 1500 BC.