If you look at a map of Greece, you will see that nearly a quarter of its territory consists of dozens and dozens of islands in the Aegean Sea. In ancient times, one of these islands was Thera. It would not be especially notable -- except for one thing. This island was the site of one of the most massive volcanic eruptions in history. After it happened, Thera was no longer one island, but three -- one of which is today known as Santorini.
When the eruption occurred in about 1500 BC, a civilization was wiped out. It was a sophisticated culture much influenced by the Minoan civilization on Crete some 60 miles away. Thera's artists painted colorful frescoes of animals, sport, and war, its women had a passion for jewelry and bright clothes and its engineers constructed a remarkable system of running water piped into each dwelling.
Yet although volcanoes destroy, they also preserve. The eruption on Thera buried an entire city under a layer of ash and pumice, and when that city was rediscovered in the 1960s, it proved to be almost perfectly preserved, thus giving archaeologists a fabulous window into life in ancient times.