Many of the islands are of volcanic formation; and a well-defined volcanic chain bounds the Cretan Sea on the north, including Milo and Kimolos, Santorin (Thera) and Therasia, and extends to Nisyros.
In 1866 primitive structures were discovered in the island of Therasia by quarrymen extracting pozzolana for the Suez Canal works; and when this discovery was followed up in 1870, on the neighbouring Santorin (Thera), by representatives of the French School at Athens, much pottery of a class now known immedi ately to precede the typical late Aegean ware, and many stone and metal objects, were found and dated by the geologist Fouque, somewhat arbitrarily, to 2000 B.C., by consideration of the superincumbent eruptive stratum.
In the very early rock inscriptions of Thera (700-600 B.C.), written from right to left, it appears in a form resembling the ordinary Greek X; this form apparently arose from writing the Semitic symbol upside down.
To the student of antiquity the most interesting are: Delos, one of the greatest centres of ancient religious, political and commercial life, where an important series of researches has been carried out by French archaeologists; Melos, where, in addition to various buildings of the Hellenic and Roman periods, the large prehistoric stronghold of Phylakopi has been excavated by members of the British school at Athens; and Thera (see Santorin), the ancient capital of which has been explored by Baron Hiller von Gaertringen.
Thera is also of special interest to geologists owing to its remarkable volcanic phenomena.
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