Research proposal

Proof of concept – the interdisciplinary approach

Reconstructing the social vulnerability of an ancient society, such as the Minoan one, to a potentially destructive volcanic eruption is not necessarily an easy task. Every culture is embedded in a location, and the societal variables that shape the vulnerability and resilience of a human society are largely defined by its cosmology, its set of knowledge, beliefs, interpretations and practices and the way humans, animals, plants and the environment interact. The above-mentioned ontologies, however, represent a promising but hitherto largely underused framework for deciphering how societies – ancient and modern – may have reacted to a natural hazard such as a volcanic eruption (Descola’s 2005; 2011; Moreau 2017). Since our proposal ultimately intends to define the vulnerability, resilience and ethos of Minoan society, it is only via societies with similar ontologies that we can come nearer to an understanding. Benedikter & Fathi (2017) have stressed the importance of cultural variables and historical, political, and institutional factors where the impact of disasters is concerned. They have shown that in the USA, with its individualistic and competition-oriented cultural basis, individual success is the measure for resilience while in Europe, where a semi-collectivistic culture of solidarity and a strong orientation towards environmental preservation exists, resilience is linked to sustainability. In China, however, with its full collectivistic, Confucian culture used by the Communist elites as social regulatory, stability prevails (Benedikter & Fathi 2017). And even if this may be a somewhat caricatured and euro-centric perspective, the bottom-line is that the cultural attitudes of societies differ, now and in the past, and that studying not only the impact of a disaster but also the resilience of ancient societies can only be done successfully if sufficient knowledge is amassed to characterise the attitude of a society, to identify its level of vulnerability, within clear spatial and temporal contexts. Preliminary studies on recovery after earthquakes on Minoan Crete and archaeological material (especially iconography) suggest the presence of a collective ethos within society (Driessen & Jusseret in press). If we were able to recognise the dominant ontology within a society’s cosmology, we would already be on a more robust basis to appreciate potential reactions to a potentially disrupting natural event.

Our claim is that the collateral damage caused by the Santorini eruption and its accompanying effects broke the collective and corporate ethos of Minoan society in favour of a more individualistic and competition-oriented society, heralding the end of an age-old system. While earthquakes were part of Minoan life, the tremors, fire, ash fall, tsunami, abnormal events (darkness, noise….) and probable weather anomalies accompanying the eruption were not, and this out-of-place combination seems to have outstretched the system. It did this not only by affecting the spatial settings of the social gatherings – ‘palaces’, sanctuaries – but also by considerably undermining the economic foundations that allowed these communal gatherings to operate and generate social cohesion. An ontological characterization of Minoan society as a starting point for deciphering the cultural construction of nature-society relations is hence essential. The few studies that exist do suggest a predominantly analogical cosmology in which also some animistic features were present (Shapland 2009; 2010; 2013; Binnberg 2018). Our hypothesis is then that, because Minoan society was predominantly analogical with some aspects of animism, the Santorini eruption and accompanying effects did not just cause some short-term physical damage but, more importantly, wrecked the existing social order, leading to the progressive disintegration of its society.

Since ontologies are typically hybridised, it is important to document the variety of potential responses of an analogical society to a volcanic eruption. Thus, we propose a comparative approach between Aegean societies affected by the Santorini eruption and a small sample of societies that have comparable ontologies and have been affected by eruptions that, in size, nature and potential fatalities, resemble the Late Bronze Age event.

Two case studies are chosen for comparative fieldwork,

  1. the Indonesian island of Enggano, located ca. 300 km from Krakatoa, which exploded violently in 1883;

  2. the Indonesian island of Lombok, ca. 200 km west from Tambora volcano, which witnessed a huge eruption in 1815;

These two case studies have in common with the Aegean Bronze Age situation that

  1. they are insular societies that have been categorised as predominantly analogical;

  2. they include volcanoes that are both proximate and at a distance comparable to the Minoan islands and with eruptions that, in their eruptive force, are comparable to the Bronze Age case. Moreover, their distal impact and fatalities provide potential comparative material. Moreover, both Enggano and Lombok were affected by ash fall and tsunamis, as has been claimed for Minoan Crete.

  3. their eruptions are documented through oral traditions and a variety of anthropological and volcanological studies.

We propose a unique fieldwork team comprised of archaeologists, anthropologists and volcanologists and an integrated methodology. We envision a multi-temporal approach to provide a sounder framework for the recognition of key moments occurring during a disaster: (i) the pre-disaster situation, (ii) the emergency phase or the period during which the immediate impact of the disaster was most strongly felt, and (iii) the rehabilitation or recovery phase, when attempts were made to bring the community back to its former level of existence (Fig. 3). A fourth phase, that of remediation and prevention should also be considered. This temporal application within a framework explicitly integrating knowledge from ethnography, archaeology and volcanology makes a largely novel and pioneering contribution to the field since it will allow the identification of patterns in behavioural responses. Since such responses often have a counterpart in material culture, this should be instructive to appreciate the Bronze Age archaeological record.

Fig. 3 – The four key moments occurring during a disaster

We argue that, through this multidisciplinary endeavour, empirical analogies, present-day volcanic observations and ethnographic fieldwork in modern contexts of human-volcano interactions can be assessed in a fruitful way to obtain a diachronic and environmental perspective against the background of archaeological and volcanological data. This will offer a unique opportunity to feed archaeological understandings of the social and physical effects of volcanic hazards on a specific type of society (Bosquet & Sylvos 2005; Cashman & Cronin 2008; Gaillard 2002; Hoffman & Oliver-Smith 2002; Torrence 2018). This will also help to understand lesser-known cases and the construction of predictive schemes and the development of a society-based disaster terminology. Overall, this approach will improve the time-and-place linkage of ‘natural’ disasters with specific cosmologies, and the transformative potential of such events in a specific type of society much better than has hitherto been the case. Moreover, the social volcanology we propose has specific epistemological and methodological implications. It first requires an interdisciplinary stance and this project therefore aims at combining anthropological, archaeological and volcanological perspectives while integrating their specific tools and methods. Volcanologists are deeply concerned with how the objects of their study impact human lives and hence borrow from the social sciences and humanities while an interest on the role of volcanic eruptions on past people is on the rise, but there are, so far, relatively few systematic integration of archaeological sources, anthropological research and volcanological tools and methods into a coherent research framework (Riede 2018; Sheets 2016). Such a comparative study will allow us to identify societal responses to natural and manmade catastrophes and study resilience in the form of mechanisms of adaptation, recovery and alternative pathways.

The case studies

The two insular societies that we propose to study are situated on Lombok and Enggano Islands in Indonesia (Fig. 4). Lombok was exposed to various degrees of volcanic hazards when Mt. Tambora, situated c. 200 km to the east, blew up catastrophically in 1815. Similarly, the dramatic unrest of Krakatoa volcano in 1883 sent tephra and perhaps a tsunami to Enggano, some 300 km away (Simkin & Fiske 1883). Both eruptions have similarities with that of Santorini in the Late Bronze Age: they are very large volcanic events of magnitude (Volcanic Explosive Index of 6 or 7; Rampino and Self 1982; Self et al. 1984); they dispersed tephra across several hundreds of thousands of square kilometres and they generated tsunamis (Winchester 2003; Self et al. 1984; Self & Gertisser 2015). Like Crete and other Minoan sites on Aegean islands, Lombok and Enggano can be regarded as distal sites affected by a large volcanic eruption. Further, the analogical ontologies of the Sasak on Lombok and of Enggano should bear some resemblance to that reconstructed for the Minoans. Moreover, two of the PI’s (Delmelle and Laugrand) have previous experience working in Indonesia.

The 1815 eruption of Mt. Tambora on Sumbawa Island is the largest eruption in recorded history and the deadliest known (Zollinger 1855; D’Arcy Wood 2014; McGuire n.d.). The number of direct and indirect casualties in Indonesia alone was in the range of 100,000-120,000 (Oppenheimer 2011). It wiped out the kingdom of Tambora, covering its villages beneath three meters of tephra (D’Arcy Wood 2014; Sutawidjaja et al. 2006). The distant effects of the blast were baffling. The sound of the explosions was heard 2000 kilometres away on Sumatra. More than twenty centimetres of tephra accumulated on the Eastern tip of Java, some 400 kilometres to the west. Tsunamis were generated as pyroclastic density currents entered the sea. Massive rafts of pumice, up to five kilometres across, and tree trunks floating across the Flores sea hindered navigation for up to three years (Oppenheimer 2011). The global climatic perturbations arising from the cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Tambora led to poor harvests in Europe and North America in the following two years. Some of these effects could potentially be shared by the Minoan eruption of Santorini.

Lombok Island was not spared by the fury of Mt. Tambora. The destruction of agriculture by the tephra fall led to starvation, and tephra-contaminated water and malnutrition resulted in the spread of disease. Tens of thousands of lives were probably lost. In the early 19th c., four rival Balinese kingdoms existed on Lombok, but by 1834 that of Mataram imposed its rule. What was the role played by the 1815 eruption of Tambora in this transformation (Kahin 2015)? Could it have seeded a history of tension between Balinese incoming groups and local Sasak communities? Although largely Muslim, there are also Hindu and Buddhist influences in which many local traditional beliefs are preserved. These could provide valuable information for understanding the social response to the 1815 Mt. Tambora eruption. There are also archaeological opportunities as previous work on Lombok remains limited (O’Connor et al. 2018). Moreover, Lombok is often plagued by earthquakes, offering another comparative element for the Minoan case. It was also heavily impacted by tephra from the large Samalas eruption in 1257 CE, which caused worldwide climatic cooling. This last eruption represents an interesting archaeological marker that can be distinguished from that left by Mt. Tambora (Lavigne et al. 2013; Alloway et al. 2017).

Enggano Island is located c. 100 km southwest of Sumatra and 360 km from Krakatoa volcano. The merchant R. Francis mentions that their society was matrilineal and clan-like (Francis 1870). The six villages on the island are all located on the northeast coast and suffered from both the tephra fall and tsunami of the 1883 eruption (Modigliano 1894). Population numbers dwindle 6,420 in 1866 to 870 in 1884, i.e. one year after the Krakatoa eruption. Ethnographic work by Modigliani (1894) is a valuable source on the archaeology and ethnography of the island while actual artefactual collections exist in the Rijksmuseum of Leiden. Some of this has been presented by Ter Keurs (2006; 2008; 2011; also Edwards 2015a).

Fig. 4 – Dispersal and thickness of the tephra deposit (in centimetres) from the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa (modified from Simkin & Friske 1983) (left), and from the 1815 eruption of Mt. Tambora (modified from Gertisser et al. 2012) (right). The locations of Enggano Island, Krakatoa, Lombok and Sumbawa (Mt. Tambora) are shown.

In addition to these two comparative case studies, we will also try to compare archaeological and anthropological data from societies that suffered from volcanic eruptions in the near past to a society that is still consistently plagued by ongoing eruptions. This is the active volcanic island of Ambrym in Vanuatu (Melanesia) which erupts frequently, the latest unrest occurring in 2017. Ambrym volcano is renowned for producing fluoride-rich gas, tephra emissions and acid rains. These pose a health risk to the local population and subsistence farming. Previous impact studies reveal the water supplies and the surface soils are contaminated with fluoride and that a prevalence of dental fluorosis caused by volcanic environment (Crimp 2006; Allibone et al 2012). A former PhD student of Delmelle studied the exposure of the Ambrym population to volcanogenic fluoride (Calkins 2011). In contrast to the two former cases, Ambrym has been well documented in anthropology (Németh & Cronin 2006; 2009; Moreau 2014) but much remains to be done with the native perspectives on eruptions. Exploring to what extent changes in material culture are blamed on the effects of the eruptions will allow a better appreciation of similar changes elsewhere. The island is also interesting for having produced a succession of tephra layers, distinguishing different cultural layers that have been identified in archaeological excavations (Clark et al. 2001; Kirch 2000; Bedford 2006). These may help the recognition of cultural change throughout the recent volcanic activity history. The example will allow us to appreciate actual and past oral traditions with regard to recent eruptions (including actual persons who are the intermediate spokesmen between community and volcano). An interesting documentary can be consulted at


In this proposal, we have assembled a unique team of researchers who combine knowledge, field expertise and disciplinary excellence. The three insular societies – Minoan Crete, Enggano and Lombok – will, as much as possible, be approached through a single, integrated methodology that consists of an archaeological, anthropological and vulcanological angle and combined fieldwork. At university level, this can be considered as a first. The three approaches, although here discussed separately, will happen simultaneously with consistent, mutual cross-fertilising to go beyond present knowledge.

The archaeological approach

With its long-term historical focus on material culture, ancient landscapes and settlement patterns, archaeology is particularly well equipped to address long-term change and to adopt a diachronic perspective regarding the impact of volcanic eruptions. Assessing and tracing the entanglements between human and non-human agents and how these associations are reconfigured and distributed temporally and spatially is definitely one of the strong suits of archaeology (Hodder 2012). But the archaeological record has its limits and alone cannot provide us with enough data to fully comprehend the complex dynamics at play between social groups and environmental hazards. For this, an anthropological contextualisation is necessary and a close cooperation between archaeology and anthropology is essential since it will be through material culture (visual and non-visual analysis of objects, motifs, styles, forms) that we will attempt an identification of prevalent cosmologies. Hence, a first step will be to reconstruct the ontologies of the societies affected by the Santorini, Tambora and Krakatoa eruptions. While for the latter this will primarily happen through anthropological approaches (see below), it is essential to have a better idea of Minoan cosmologies and how these can be identified in the patterning of material culture. This will imply scrutinizing the validity of recent work by Shapland (2009; 2010; 2013) and Binberg (2018) who have primarily focussed on human-animal relations. Moreover, we will add other angles of approach such as the relationship with the natural world and especially the remains of the built environment. Places communicated ideology, perpetuated important events and structured activities, implying that they served to relate aspects of cosmology. Places or their representations (settlements, buildings, shrines etc.) and their roles can be studied by exploring features that can be modelled, tested, and confirmed through their material evidence. Primarily, we want to find out what these places (in which social practices took place) meant to participants. This means regarding places as having an agency in human/nature interactions. This should provide us with an in-depth and broader knowledge of Minoan ontologies that has hitherto been the case. Methodologically, work taking place in Mesoamerican and Andean archaeology will serve as a guideline (e.g. Nash 2017; Ardren 2015; Brosseder 2015; Bray 2014).

A related but second, essential step in this archaeological approach will be the reconstruction of site histories. The archaeological and/or ethnographical record of the three case-studies is extremely rich and by concentrating on material evidence with a bottom-up perspective, specific site-histories will be constructed. These should allow us to recognise patterned changes happening at various temporal and spatial scales in the period before and after the volcanic eruption and allow the creation of narratives of construction, destruction and abandonment. In the case of Crete and the Aegean, the period considered will cover from Middle Minoan III to the end of Late Minoan IB, for Enggano, the period 1860-1900 CE, for Lombok, the period 1780-1850 CE. These site histories will be constructed by making use of a series of methods that allow the objective observation of changes in a variety of parameters:

  1. Survey and settlement data: by using archaeological or historical survey data and looking at settlement distributions, their number and extent according to specific time-periods, regional dynamics in settlement trajectories will be identified on the three islands. Some predictive modelling will be necessary (e.g. Spencer & Bevan 2018; Bevan 2010; Whitelaw 2018). This will help to reconstruct the political geography and settlement hierarchy during the relevant periods on the respective islands. These will also provide a general idea about relative demographic changes, site trajectories and diachronic relationships between various settlements. Since settlements are usually quite static, their disappearance may well reflect sudden changes in spatial and functional organisation, which will need to be explained (Spencer & Bevan 2018; Driessen 2001). If a temporal linkage with eruption-accompanying effects can be shown, we will be on a firm footage to construct a narrative. Whenever there are excavated sites, we can also explore phases of construction, modification, destruction and abandonment at site, regional and insular level. Attention will also be given to the identification and qualification of fills deriving from massive cleaning/clearing operations, the latter suggestive of larger cooperative actions following major destructive events.

  2. Ceramic phasing: we will primarily concentrate on well-published and/or recently excavated cases. While this is relatively easy for Crete, it remains a largely unexplored terrain where Enggano and Lombok are concerned although some studies exist (Ter Keurs 2006; Cahyadinata et al. 2019) and most of this work will hence be desktop-based. Various punctuated events will be cross-referenced and compared in detail from a ceramic perspective. An approach like this underlines the necessity of presenting site-based relative chronologies: archaeological levels are caused by specific events. If nothing remarkable happens, no deposition occurs. This refinement of internal stylistic phasing, by paying more attention to local developments, will provide a firmer ground when it comes to recognising a pattern of intermittent and non-contemporaneous destructions. Part of this study will also imply some limited petrographical and SEM analysis of pottery to see whether volcanic minerals and glass shards show up, similar to instances in Mesoamerica (Ford & Rose 1995; Catlin 2008; Coffey et al. 2014). This will also provide an objective chronological marker, corroborating typo-chronological attributions of pottery.

  3. Material production. Material culture is often a good barometer to detect socio-political changes and we will attempt to translate modifications in various domains of material culture into a meaningful narrative if a temporal linkage with a volcanic eruption can be shown. This will evidently inform us to what extent (if at all) material culture is subject to change by meaningful events and what the changes imply (stylistic, technological) (Caloi & Langohr 2018). These reverberations may occur in iconography, religious and social practices, depositional systems, livestock-keeping methods, and many other domains. Close collaboration with anthropologists and volcanologists is essential here. Certain changes in architecture, for example, can be translated into labour-time required for its construction via the method of ‘architectural energetics’ (Devolder 2013).

  4. Internal and external circulation patterns and modifications. Although architecture is less prone to rapid morphological and structural change than other expressions of material culture (Glassie 2000), specific events can directly or indirectly cause significant modifications that can nonetheless alter the internal logic of both domestic and monumental buildings (Driessen & MacDonald 1997). Space syntax is an analytical method, based on graph theory, which allows the identification, among large samples of buildings, of structural properties governing the patterning of internal spaces and the configuration of their connections (Hanson 1998; Hillier 1996). Highlighting these topological properties can ultimately shed light on sociocultural norms producing and being reproduced by particular spatial arrangements (Letesson 2009; 2013; 2014). Space syntax has the potential to inform us on how various coping mechanisms and adaptive strategies might have altered the spatial arrangement of various types of buildings. These processes can take the form of restrictions of access, simplification of circulation patterns, segregation of particular types of spaces such as storage areas, enclosure of open spaces, etc. As for other dimensions of our archaeological approach, space syntax will be used diachronically. The pace of change within architecture being somewhat slower, chronological resolution among the various phases is less of an issue. In other words, in combination with fine-grained analyses of domestic buildings, architectural data sets can also be used as comparanda to assess longer chronological trajectories of spatial (re)configuration and the impact that eruptions and their consequences might have had on such processes.

  5. Architectural heterogeneity, spatial allocation, and measures of inequality. The amount of space that is allocated to various types of activities (storage, residence, food-processing, artisanal production, husbandry, hosting social interactions, etc.) within buildings is also a potential indicator of post-crisis behaviours. In this respect, comparing the spatial allocation among a large sample of buildings in the chronological spectrum evoked above can also turn out to be informative. One can expect that the balance between spaces related to the most basic needs (shelter, food storage and processing) and spaces essentially related to social reproduction (hosting of guests, ritual areas, etc.) might have been altered in times of disruptive events. Another key morphological aspect of buildings is the overall heterogeneity in architecture at a given period and, more specifically, the frequency distribution of particular types of rooms – the importance of which can be measured in m² – within the sample. Usually mobilized to measure inequality of income or wealth among modern countries, the Gini index has proved a reliable tool in archaeological investigations, especially in a comparative perspective (Kohler & Smith 2018). It has, thus far, not be applied to any of the study cases. Beyond the relative importance of various types of rooms before and after the eruption (see also point b.2), our architectural sample will also be assessed in terms of its heterogeneity, i.e. the proportion between buildings of various sizes and degrees of elaboration. Marked changes in such distribution can also be indicative of alterations in the social matrix. In parallel, other material evidence will also be integrated in our inequality measures to build an overall index of inequality before and after the eruption.

  6. Interaction and connectivity (intra-and extra-insular networks). Formal network analyses have proved useful in approaching large-scale databases of material culture in archaeology. In particular, similarity measures, which capture the potential of two sites to be interconnected on the basis of similarities in their material assemblages, produced promising results (Mills et al. 2013; Habiba et al. 2018). Time permitting, we will endeavour using such measures diachronically and for the three case-studies, which will allow us to assess how networks of sites might have been transformed. This could then permit to develop a finer analysis of the evolution of settlement patterns. Questioning the structural evolution of such networks is also a way of addressing the joint issues of resilience and vulnerability. Hierarchical networks of sites can indeed prove extremely performant in harnessing matter, energy and information and maximizing their distribution across their nodes (Lane et al. 2009), but they run the risk of losing in adaptability what they gain in efficiency (Allen 1997). Networks of sites which might have been extremely adapted to the pre-eruption context could have been extremely vulnerable to the consequences of this disruptive event. By illustrating how networks of sites might have changed through time and how the balance between heterarchical and hierarchical structuring might have evolved, we also aim at questioning potential shifts in socio-political economy.

Most of the work described above is desktop-based but considerable additional fieldwork, some in collaboration with anthropologists and volcanologists, is also necessary and this will specifically target the environmental reflections of the impacts of volcanic eruptions as reflected through archaeological assemblages (see below, the volcanological angle). This will primarily imply the archaeological contextualisation for a series of geomorphological and micromorphological cores (Courty et al. 1989; Macphail et al. 1990; Nicosia & Stoops 2017). While such work will primarily take place on Crete, we may consider also taking cores on Enggano and Lombok. While relevant to indicate the presence of ash (see below), microscopic investigations of sediments may also help us to identify specific activities (e.g. corralling of animals in and around buildings, makeshift food-processing areas, proportional changes in the number, type and importance of production and storage units throughout the various phases as suggested by the site histories) and processes (e.g. soil contamination, erosion, building collapses) directly or indirectly related to the eruption. The presence of charred macroscopic remains and phytoliths may further inform us of changes in subsistence practices and economic interests, perhaps explainable as reactions to volcanic impact. Ideally, we would also like to study a number of human and faunal osteological assemblages dating to the post-eruptive period in the three study-cases. On Crete, we now have such a human assemblage from Sissi. A full study (including aDNA and isotope analyses) may help us to detect pathologies, changes in animal species, changes in body disposal, all of which could be consequences of eruption impacts (cf. Blaikie et al. 1994; McCaughey et al. 1994; Doocy et al. 2013). The various approaches given here should allow a more balanced appreciation of the history of the periods in which synchronic vs. diachronic and regional vs. site-specific features find their proper contextualisation.

Ethnohistorical, Ethnographical and Comparative Anthropological approaches

The proposed anthropological approach consists of a series of angles that complete each other. Combining the methods of history, anthropology, and archaeology, ethnohistory as they emerged in the US and in France, encompasses both particularistic and comparative scholarship, and embodies productive tensions among historical, anthropological, and indigenous perspectives on cultural and historical processes (Turner 2015). In this project, we will use an ethnohistorical approach such as F. Laugrand (2002; 2019) and O. Servais (2005) have implemented in their respective fields of Inuit and Ojibway Christianization.

At the outset of the project, it will be essential to inventory the various archaeological and textual sources that exist to elaborate on the predominant ontology of the three societies under examination (Minoan, Enggano, Lombok). This will be based on a study of archival material (for Lombok and Enggano) and, in conjunction with the archaeologists, of material culture where the Aegean Bronze Age is concerned (see above). Before the actual work by Ter Keurs (nd; 2002; 2002; 2006; 2008), Enggano societies were studied by anthropologists such as Jaspan (1973), Kähler (1975, 1987), and Effendi (1991) (see Ter Keurs 2008: 467) while historical sources about Enggano tribes can be found in Jakarta (National Museum), in Leiden (Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, with a considerable number of original documents), in Florence (Museo di Antropologia e Etnologia) and in Washington (National Museum of Natural History). In the case of these two Indonesian case studies, it is especially the Dutch archives of the VOC and compagnies in Amsterdam and Rotterdam as well as some missionary archives in Rome and London that are particularly interesting. This said, the limitations of archival documents have long been known. Apart from the fact that they are inevitably incomplete, they reflect a point of view that is not intended for research as they were written in a specific context that gives them a particular meaning. It is therefore necessary to extract the useful data, while recontextualizing and interpreting them through historical criticism. While these data, which are often precise, provide unparalleled information for chronologies or to complete information, they are rarely sufficient on their own for the purpose at hand. Apart from these first-hand accounts, an analysis of local oral traditions will clarify to what extent information can found about past eruptions and related phenomena. With respect to our project, it is obvious that volcanic eruptions not only have a major impact on the physical world as globally disruptive events, but also strong effects on local people and traditions. Evidence from oral traditions are hence very valuable to document, even if in many cases interpretations vary or telescope themselves. As has been shown for other case studies (e.g. Canada, Pacific), oral history contains substantial information on such events (Taylor 1995; Quesada 2005; Schlehe 1996; 2010; Pyle 2017, 2018). This is particularly clear respect to the Krakatau (Simkin & Fiske 1983) and the Tambora eruptions (Stommel & Stommel 1983; Oppenheimer 2003; 2011). Vanuatu volcanic traditions have also received attention (Németh & Cronin 2006; 2009). Within Lombok islands, ethnic groups vary and at this moment, we have not yet decided whether we will work with the Sasak (e.g. Cederroth 1999; Telle 2009), the Bali-Agas (Méric 2016), or other groups. All these groups have been influenced by Islam, Hinduism and other religions but each group has preserved its own traditions. Archaeological and volcanological research may be instructive in the choice of the ethnic group. The dominant ontology will be identified by looking primarily at ritual, religious and social practices, but also at stories and myths of the past. In collaboration with the archaeologists, we will pay particular attention to their reflection by material evidence, including objects and iconography. Changes in these domains need to be explored, partly through proper anthropological framing and comparanda. The same archival sources will provide us with ethnohistorical data about the reactions of local peoples to the eruptions of Tambora and Krakatoa.

In addition to the definition of dominant ontologies and of specific reactions to volcanic events in ethnographical sources, we will use classical ethnography, i.e. participant observations and ethnographic fieldwork of humans-volcano interactions. This will primarily take place on Ambrym but we will test its use also on Enggano and Lombok. It consists for the observer in immersing and integrating himself/herself in a cultural universe or a society to grasp its values and the cognitive mechanisms that are specific to this cultural universe or society. This will offer a unique opportunity to broaden our understanding of prediction and the social and physical effects of volcanic hazards. Recording short-term responses to eruptive events in various cultural contexts can help establishing a sound basis for cross-cultural comparisons and ethnoarchaeological parallels. Addressing issues of local knowledge on natural disasters, coping mechanisms and management of hazards or indigenous interpretations of such events, will bring forward a wealth of emic perspectives that can be mobilized to illustrate the high variability of cultural responses to natural hazards (Weeks & Popinsky 2016) and raise an epistemological question of how to combine oral traditions or local knowledge with scientific interpretations, which remains a major issue if one wants to reduce vulnerability to environmental hazards (Mercer et al. 2007). The lens of anthropology can shed new light on the social structure, symbolism, religion, etc. of a society and thereby, on its capacity for resistance and resilience in the face of the volcanic disruption. As Riede (2018) writes, the study of volcanoes offers a unique opportunity for a dialogue between the exact and social sciences.

Ethnography, even if it has developed its great descriptive qualities and the rigour of its data (Olivier De Sardan 2008), remains limited by the predominantly individual dimension of the materials collected (interviews or observations) and by the subjectivity of the researcher. This research approach will thus be appropriately complemented by a more inter-subjective and collective data collection system. With ethnography, we will be able to capture indigenous perspectives and categories, through several intergenerational knowledge transmission workshops with local populations, if possible from indigenous worlds and both elders and youngsters, since these societies have long lived with volcanoes, which have a place in their myths but also in their practices. By gathering small groups around a table, we hope to gather testimonies and analyse them to identify how volcanoes are part of everyday life but also how resilience is operational in the field. Observations as these may help us to appreciate knowledge, various myths and the ecosystem biodiversity. In particular, we will explore indigenous knowledge about animals and plants in terms of anticipation (Bressan 2011). We will also ask indigenous participants to suggest themes that they consider relevant to our project. Such an approach has been developed by one of the PI’s in the Canadian Arctic and the Philippines for more than fifteen years with substantial empirical results (see Laugrand 2018). Round tables will be organized so that each speaker will have the opportunity to express himself/herself in front of others who will validate, or not, the comments. All discussions will be podcasted and made available throughout the project’s website.

As Vansina (1985) points out, oral tradition is only rarely relevant for studying specific phenomena, and chronologically located, several generations earlier. And in fact, oral memory is structurally opposed to the precise facts of long time. It does not retain precise chronologies, is systematically selective and therefore acts as an interpreter rather than a columnist. On the other hand, it is a master in the art of uncovering recurrences, ingrained practices or stories transmitted over several generations. In addition, this type of workshop requires time away from the constraints of daily life in order to be fully available for the collective dynamics of sharing knowledge and practices. They also require a selection of participants in order to keep a group of manageable size. These constraints inevitably limit the possibilities by reducing these workshops to specific times and groups limited in the life of the communities analysed. This is why, it will be used in close synergy with the other methods.

Four major cross-disciplinary issues will be addressed by the anthropological approach:

  1. Recipients: for whom is the knowledge about volcanoes produced? Various studies carried out so far by historians and anthropologists show that disasters related to volcanic eruptions have left lasting traces in oral traditions. Moodie et al. (1992) and Fast (2008), for example, have illustrated this with the Athapaskan peoples of Northwestern Canada, where 19th and 20th century eruptions are transmitted in mythical stories. Other researchers have shown how volcanic eruptions have been interpreted in the light of religious and theological considerations (Bankoff 2004; Chester 2005), with Chester (2005: 319) explicitly calling for a greater dialogue between theology and disaster studies. In many societies, eruptions are indeed seen as an expression of the anger of the gods, generating not only a multitude of acts and rituals of compensation, but also apocalyptic discourses. Conversely, Western societies often fail to provide convincing explanations and it is possible that, with the spread of New Age ideologies, the idea of planet earth's ability to respond to human actions (cf. Latour 2015 and Lovelock 2007 for notions of Gaia) may become more widespread. This type of argument parallels the reasoning of the indigenous peoples of animistic and analogical societies who, as is the case with the Mangyan of the Philippines, for example, consider that the land is populated and possessed by a spirit that reacts to its unbridled exploitation (Laugrand et al. 2018). Victimisation and scapegoating are amongst the reactions recorded after disasters that are explained in terms of the sins of the people or their leaders. In ancient Egypt, for example, pharaohs were executed after natural catastrophes (Bell 1971) and crises are often accompanied by what are called crisis cults, cargo cults or revitalisation movements (La Barre 1971; Tabani & Abong 2013). This type of reaction can also be found amongst many indigenous groups who consider volcanoes as deities or as inhabited by divine forces. Ethnographical work and comparanda will allow collecting solid information about the role of religion and cosmological beings in volcano-human connections. Here, the expertise of archaeologists in studying materiality and art will be very useful for the anthropologists who will be able to question objects and artefacts among the Indigenous peoples living near volcanoes. Details about designs and motifs can be very revealing of the way these people relate to the volcanoes and adapt their cultures accordingly

  2. Constant threats and resilience. Many observers have noted that several indigenous populations have been able to take advantage of the constant threats of volcanic eruptions and other disasters. This is the case in the Philippines, where natural disasters are said to be partly responsible for the existence of exemplary bonds of solidarity between populations who know that they cannot survive without sharing and mutual aid. The Aeta who faced the violent eruption of Pinatubo in 1991 are a good example of this constant resilience, having survived because of these values. We are dealing here with the paradoxical dimension of these volcanoes, which, on the one hand, remain unpredictable and, on the other hand, are the major instigators in terms of solidarity and sustainable sociality. The project will therefore aim at a better understanding of the structure of volcanoes, their religious but also their social effects, while considering the knowledge that indigenous peoples transmit to each other in order to be able to predict disasters. In this respect, traditions are nowhere established forever but open to innovation, as illustrated by the example of the Aeta (Crittenden 2001) or the local populations living near Merapi volcano in Indonesia (Schlehe 1996; Dove 2008; 2010) who have developed both a kind of religion around the volcano and distinct agro-ecological knowledge. These different examples lead to a second crosscutting question, namely what defines the notion of "risk" and how does it vary cross-culturally? Modern societies are undoubtedly risk societies (Beck 2001; Latour 1999), but this notion is problematic and does not mean much in non-naturalistic cosmologies. Certainly, it does not apply to past eruptions in the Mediterranean region where analogy was probably predominant, which raises the question of how to interpret and discuss the Santorini eruption’s effects on local people and cultures.

  3. Anticipation. Primarily through interdisciplinary concerns, disaster provisions as well as prediction and management systems will be addressed. In many cases, naturalist systems work quite well from the point of view of governments and experts – this is the case for the Pinatubo eruption (Leone & Gaillard 1999). In many examples, however, mitigation measures derived from these systems (such as relocation programmes) have shown to have disastrous consequences (acceleration of a rural exodus, impoverishment, etc.). Pannell (1999)'s description of the Nila volcano in the Banda Sea in Indonesia, or Tobin & Whiteford's (2002) description of the Amerindians of Ecuador provide specific examples. As Leone & Gaillard (1999) point out with regard to the Aeta, people often remain very attached to local heritage and the dwellings they had to evacuate, which leads them to return to the area and reoccupy it through an attachment to the land.

  4. Link to the land. A crosscutting question of this project will consist in questioning this link to the land and to indigenousness, because it partly explains the reasons why populations easily integrate these eruptions into their mythical and religious corpuses, modifying for this purpose the prohibitions and rituals. In other words, it will be about capturing the resilience of indigenous peoples to volcanoes.

Addressing these issues will help to share volcanological, archaeological and anthropological perspectives by connecting our disciplines and their respective methodologies and differences.

We will also organise meetings that bring together all stakeholders (volcanologists, archaeologists, anthropologists and indigenous people) in a final interdisciplinary workshop to foster a positive dialogue. Archaeology and volcanology can provide very precise information about eruptions of the past and detailed interpretations and hypotheses. Anthropology can help connect these results to the type of interpretations provided by indigenous or local people. As these perspectives are based on different temporalities and reasoning, discrepancies are to be expected, but this exercise is helpful to understand how resilience operates at different scales and can be defined in more general and ontological terms. In contrast to natural sciences, the same causes do not result in the same effects in the field of social sciences, so a dialogue is essential between these disciplines. Moreover, as archaeology, volcanology and anthropology all belong to naturalism, indigenous perspectives are often very challenging for them. Our project will also contribute to the epistemological debate in that we aim to explore the clash between communicability models as they can be mapped by science and indigenous knowledge. Framing something as a belief rather than as truth has considerable implications in terms of political and economic relations (cf. Povinelli 1995; Cruikshank 2006).

The volcanological approach

In order to be crucibles of change, volcanoes must affect the environment in which a society subsists. Sheets (2015) emphasises that, in the last 10,000 years, complex societies were often “more vulnerable to volcanic eruptions and much of their vulnerability derived from their dependence on intensive agriculture, fixed facilities such as irrigation and storage structures, redistributive economies, large-scale architecture and a strong sense of place”. Thus, from a volcanological perspective, we regard the impacts of an eruption on agriculture, livestock, forests and the built environment as important determinants of changes in the affected society. Unravelling these impacts for ancient eruptions demands careful investigations aimed at determining the characteristics (i.e. intensity, spatiality and temporality) of the volcanic hazard from which the effect emerged. Moreover, there may be more than one hazard at a particular time and place.

While large, sulphur-rich eruptions may lead to global climate degradation and affect crop yields in other parts of the world, tephra deposition represents the main risk to agriculture, forests, flocks and the built environment of medial and distal societies living within a few tens to hundreds of kilometres away from the volcanic source. Tephra falls are arguably the most disruptive volcanic hazard because of their ability to affect large areas and to impact a wide range of assets, even at relatively small thicknesses. Damage to buildings due to tephra fall results primarily from the static load of the deposit. Roof collapse occurs when the static load exceeds the strength of either the roof material, roof structure or both (Jenkins et al. 2014). The load exerted by tephra fall depends upon its density and thickness. Since the density of tephra can vary widely depending on its water content (Macedonio & Costa 2012), the weather conditions prevailing before any cleaning operation modulate the risk of collapse. Thus, the season of the year during which an ancient eruption happened is another useful information to have for inferring potential damage to buildings. This may be particularly relevant for regions characterized by strong seasonal rainfall.

All forms of agricultural production are vulnerable to the physical and chemical effects of tephra fall. Only a few millimetres of tephra deposition may produce an array of effects on agricultural and forest ecosystems (Neild et al. 1998; Wilson et al. 2011a; Ayris & Delmelle 2012; Guevara 2015; Craig et al. 2016). The effects are mediated by the intensity of the tephra hazard and the vulnerability of the entities exposed. They can be direct or indirect, develop immediately after exposure or arise later and be reversible or irreversible. Tephra-induced damage can extend beyond the farm to the livelihood and sometimes the food security of the region. There are several modern examples where the agriculture sector suffered heavily from tephra fallout (e.g. the 1980 eruption of Mt. St Helens, USA; the 1991 eruption of Pinatubo, Philippines; the 1999-2015 eruption of Tungurahua; Ecuador). According to the FAO, 30% of all damage and loss caused by contemporary volcanic eruptions is absorbed by agriculture, mostly due to tephra accumulation on crops (FAO 2018).

Clearly, a first and important task for evaluating the impact mechanisms through which past volcanic eruptions affect human societies is to determine the nature, intensity and dynamics of the tephra hazard. The hazard from tephra varies in nature depending on location, eruption style and magmatic gas composition. Typically, the thickness of a tephra deposit decreases with the distance from the volcanic vent and is dependent on various eruption parameters as well as on atmospheric conditions. It is commonly assumed that tephra thickness (or tephra loading mass) scales with its potential to generate injuries to plants and animals (Neild et al. 1998; Craig et al. 2016; Thompson et al. 2017; Riede 2018). However, particle size is also key in dictating damage (Ayris & Delmelle 2012; Guevara 2015). A post-eruption impact assessment conducted at Tungurahua volcano, Ecuador, highlights that a thin layer of fine-grained tephra is more damaging to crops than a thicker deposit of the coarser material (Guevara 2015). Fine particles stick easily to plant leaves and can reside for a longer time. The proportion of fine-grained particles in tephra fall increases at the more distal sites. Still, it is the energy involved in the explosive fragmentation of magma during the eruption, which governs the initial particle size distribution of tephra (Bonnadona et al. 2015). Particle size also plays a key role in mediating the health hazard from tephra. Tephra can be so fine that it is breathed deep into the lungs, potentially initiating acute but short-term respiratory symptoms. Long-term exposure to fine tephra may lead to serious lung disease (Horwell & Baxter 2006; Horwell 2007). Another important physical property of tephra involved in impacts is abrasiveness. Tephra particles not only abrade leaf surfaces (sandblasting effect) but also act as dental abrasive (Riede & Wheeler 2009). Some reports reveal extreme tooth wear in animals that chewed on tephra-affected feed (Trowbridge 1976; Flueck 2016). This eventually leads to death, as animals with badly worn teeth can no longer eat. Moreover, animals grazing in areas blanketed by tephra can be subjected to lethal obstruction of the gastro-intestinal track. Importantly, several studies show that wind erosion and resuspension of tephra can dominate a post-eruptive landscape for a prolonged period, i.e. years to decades after the eruption (Inbar et al. 1995; Hadley et al. 2004; Thorsteinsson et al. 2012). Thus, continuous wind-driven resuspension of tephra may significantly prolong the volcanic hazard and the risk it poses to vegetation and human and animal health (Wilson et al. 2011b).

Potentially harmful chemicals may be associated with tephra. Burns on leaves and small twigs and inflammation symptoms in animals have been linked to the presence on tephra surfaces of soluble sulphate and halide salts. The salts originate from several volcanic processes and their contents in tephra can vary widely between eruptions (Delmelle et al. 2007; Ayris & Delmelle 2012). For similar a tephra loading, the damages inflicted to crops by salt-laden tephra are more pronounced than when the tephra is mostly devoid of these compounds. Fluoride is another chemical invoked in many tephra impact studies. Readily mobile fluoride compounds in tephra derive from fluid-tephra interactions in the volcano subsurface and/or within the eruption plume. Exposure to fluoride in the environment is associated with various health issues. Humans and animals chronically exposed (through ingestion) to vegetation, soil and/or water contaminated with fluoride may develop fluorosis, a crippling disease that affects hard and soft tissues of the body (Cronin et al. 2000; Choubisa et al. 2012). While the bioavailability of fluoride in tephra has not yet been elucidated, there is multiple evidence of its effects on animals and people from modern eruptions (Thorarinsson 1979; Cronin et al. 2003; Weinstein & Davison 2004).

Besides the presence of tephra in a post-eruption environment, passive degassing of the culprit volcano can load the low atmosphere with copious amounts of sulphur and halogen compounds. These gases can react with water to form acid rains or be deposited to the ground via dry deposition processes. Atmospheric deposition of anthropogenic acid is well-known to impinge on ecosystems and a similar, but exacerbated, situation is found downwind of a degassing volcano (Delmelle et al. 2001; Delmelle 2003). Acid deposition may also lead to health effects in grazing animals, including foot inflammation and loss of appetite (Delmelle et al. 2002). Further, the emission of volcanic gases rich in sulphur tend to increase the concentration of fine particle matter in the atmosphere and degrades air quality, potentially creating a respiratory health hazard (Hansell et al. 2006).

The volcanological approach that we intend to deploy in order to better document the range of environmental impacts that occur in proximal, medial and distal locations affected by tephra falls and volcanic gases is articulated around six themes (described below). While some of the proposed research activities will be common to the four case studies (Santorini, Lombok (Mt. Tambora), Enggano (Krakatoa) and Ambrym), others will be more specific to the Minoan eruption.

  1. Tephra deposition and tephra characteristics. The thickness and spatial distribution of the Santorini tephra deposit on Crete is unknown. A careful re-evaluation of all published and unpublished reports of tephra occurrence on the island is a preliminary step for addressing this issue. In addition, we will re-examine accessible tephra deposits systematically in order to elucidate the processes that led to their deposition and we will try to account for the effect of compaction and erosion processes (Blong et al. 2017a). Permissions will be sought from the archaeologists involved in the excavation of archaeological sites featuring accessible tephra (Papadiokampos, Priniatikos Pyrgos, Mochlos, Pelekita, Sissi). We will perform micromorphological, chemical and mineralogical characterisations of the tephra deposit (microstratigraphic characterisation, identification syn- and post-depositional diagenetic processes, major and trace element analysis by X-ray fluorescence and wet chemistry, X-ray diffraction determinations). Grain size distribution of tephra samples collected in Crete will be determined by dry and wet sieving, and laser diffraction (EPL/UCLouvain) to quantify the inhalable fraction (i.e. particles < 4 µm may exacerbate or develop respiratory ailments and are most hazardous in terms of respiratory health). Tephra specimens believed to be representative of the original deposit are available through the project PI’s and colleagues’ archives. A similar method will be applied to characterise the fine fraction of tephra specimens recovered from Lombok and Enggano. Although the data collected for these ancient eruptions will not represent the original situation, they may still indicate whether the populations could have been be chronically exposed to hazardous fine-grained tephra (Horwell 2007; Horwell et al. 2010).

  2. Record of environmental changes. To achieve the high (decadal to sub-decadal) chronological resolution needed for improving our understanding of the short-, medium- and long-term impacts of the Minoan eruption event on land use and human activities, archives characterised by high sedimentation rates (e.g. down-dropped basins associated with the footwall of active normal faults) and high organic preservation potential (e.g. lakes, marshes, lagoons) will receive particular attention. Initial reconnaissance surveys will be undertaken using a lightweight hand-operated gouge auger to determine the nature of subsurface sediments and evaluate the presence of visible and non-visible (crypto-) tephra deposits (Lowe et al. 2010; Lane et al. 2014). Sedimentary archives containing evidence of Santorini tephra will be collected using a pneumatic corer and subsampled for radiocarbon, geochemical, (crypto)tephra and pollen analyses. When relevant, the presence of tsunami materials will be verified. High-resolution pollen investigations (conducted under the lead of Dr. D. Kaniewski (Université Paul Sabatier, Toulouse 3) will be specifically undertaken on sediments located immediately above and below the Santorini tephra to assess impacts on local vegetation. This tephrostratigraphic approach will ultimately allow precise correlations between palaeoenvironmental and archaeological archives in the decades to centuries surrounding the Santorini eruption.

  3. Tephra abrasiveness. Wind erosion could have redistributed the initial tephra deposit over greater areas, possibly rendering the hazard posed by tephra abrasiveness inevitable and chronic (several years after the years). Using nanoindentation testing (LaCaMi/UCLouvain), we will document for the first time the abrasion potential of the tephra from the Minoan eruption. Particle shape examination by Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM; LaCaMi/UCLouvain) will complement these measurements. We will describe tephra abrasiveness more generally by carrying out additional measurements on tephra from the 1815 eruption of Mt. Tambora and 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, as well as on archived samples available to us and which are characterised by different compositions and mineralogies.

  4. Fluoride hazard from tephra. Significant total fluorine contents has been reported for a couple of Minoan tephra samples (Puchelt in TAW II: 377). While additional measurements will confirm this, the high values agree with the view that Santorini’s magma was enriched in halogens (Cadoux et al. 2015). Perhaps the tephra fall on Crete contaminated soils and water supplies, possibly posing a fluorosis risk to livestock (and hypothetically death). Similarly, the 1815 Mt. Tambora eruption released a vast amount of fluorine (Self et al. 1984) and much of this would have ended up on the ground adsorbed to tephra. Although soluble fluoride compounds in the Santorini and Tambora tephra would have long been leached, the reactions between a fluoride-rich eruptive gas and tephra, which form them may leave an imprint in the chemical (bonding) of silicon in the top surface of the tephra (Delmelle 2018). We will further test this idea by performing surface-specific measurements (X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, XPS; IMCN/UCLouvain) on fresh tephra from Ambrym as these are known to be particularly rich in fluoride (Stewart et al. 2006; Calkins 2011). The results will be compared with XPS analyses of Minoan and Tambora tephra. Besides, the isotopic composition of silicon (δ30Si) in the tephra surface may also point to a fluoride-rich environment. Recently, we succeeded for the first time to measure the isotopic composition of silicon (by multicollection mass spectrometry, ELI-MOCA/UCLouvain) leached from the surface of two fluoride-containing tephra specimens from Iceland and found unusually low δ 30Si values. These can only be explained by tephra-gaseous fluorine interaction in the hot eruption plume. We will confirm our interpretation by analysing additional tephra collected from Ambrym, which is known for releasing gases strongly enriched in fluoride. Although the low amounts of silicon extracted renders this type of isotopic analysis challenging, we are confident that further development will allow the measurement of a wider range of tephra materials, including samples from Santorini and Mt. Tambora. This will represent a significant advance for being able to assess the potential role of volcanogenic fluoride in the distal environmental effects of these and other eruptions correctly.

  5. Tephra remobilisation by wind. We postulate that remobilisation of tephra by wind may have been an important but hitherto overlooked component of tephra hazard on Minoan Crete. The residence time of tephra particles intercepted by plant foliage or deposited on land is limited by water- and wind-driven erosion processes (Ayris & Delmelle 2012; Tarasenko et al. 2019). However, water-driven erosion is not efficient in remobilising tephra. For example, Hooper & Hill (2004) estimated that less than 4% of the Paricutin (Mexico) tephra fall deposit was eroded between 1943 and 1972. In Chile, remobilisation by wind of the tephra fallout from the 1991 eruptions of Hudson volcano and 2011-2012 eruption of Cordón Caulle is still an ongoing hazard (Wilson et al. 2011b; Forte et al. 2018). Blong et al. (2017a) investigated the preservation of thin tephra from three eruptions and showed that erosion is not rapid, even on steeper slope in high rainfall environments. We will assess the resuspension by wind of a tephra deposit with known characteristics (such as deciphered above) by using existing modelling approaches (e.g. Leadbetter et al. 2012; Reckziegel et al. 2016). The results should allow us to put some constrains on the duration of the tephra hazard in Minoan Crete.

  6. Tephra impacts on agriculture and buildings. Tephra falls, and to a lesser extent gas emissions, may inflict considerable damage to soils, crops, livestock and supporting infrastructures. The impacts are often interconnected and their type and magnitude vary in space and time depending on volcanic factors, environmental conditions and farming system. Understanding the farming system and its vulnerability to tephra is key to assessing the potential relation between tephra fall and impacts. Thus, we will first describe the farming system(s) for each of the volcanic case studies. Archaeological and anthropological data will inform this task. Each farming system will then be examined in terms of its likely vulnerability to a tephra fall event. In addition, we will perform a quantitative evaluation of the risk of crop damage from tephra. Here, we will relate key tephra characteristics such as thickness (or loading) and particle size to crop vulnerability in order to make probabilistic predictions of impacts. The approach is based on so-called fragility functions, which link the local intensity of the tephra fall hazard to probable levels of damage, often with levels of uncertainty, for different crop types (Wilson et al. 2007; Craig 2015). We will place the emphasis on the Minoan agriculture. The Minoans formed a complex civilisation and developed intensive agriculture to feed the masses. Minoan agriculture was mostly horticultural in nature, relying on small-scale livestock management and cultivation of cereals (predominantly wheat and barley), legumes, fruits and nuts (grape, olive, fig, acorn) (Jarman 1996; Livarda & Kotzamani 2003; Halstead 2014). Santorini’s tephra fall certainly inflicted damages to crops, and hence on a large part of the agriculture sector, but the extent and duration of the impacts are still not known. In view of their dominance in Minoan archaeobotanical assemblages, we will concentrate on wheat and barley (Jarman 1996; Sarpaki 2009; Livarda & Kotzamani 2013; Halstead 2014). Fragility functions are not available for these two crops and therefore, we will generate new ones by subjecting these two crops to tephra under various conditions in a controlled environment (greenhouse experiments at UCLouvain). We will adopt the same general approach to assess the vulnerability of the main crops cultivated on Enggano and Lombok during the 19th century, although we will probably not conduct specific experiments. Instead, we will refine fragility functions that already exist (or are being built by us) for tropical crops. Besides farming, tephra falls also affect buildings. Whether or not the Minoan buildings were vulnerable to tephra accumulation from the Santorini eruption has never been assessed. Similar to the approach used for assessing the vulnerability of crops exposed to tephra fall, fragility functions have been developed for 25 building categories, representing a good sample of what is usually found in volcanic regions (Maqsood et al. 2014; Blong et al. 2017b). Although the buildings affected by an ancient eruption may not have modern equivalents, it will still be informative to search evidence in the material and oral culture of roof collapse and to put this information in relation to the modelling exercise. Historical accounts following the 1815 eruption of Mt. Tambora clearly indicate that tephra fall led to roof collapses as far away as Banyuwangi, i.e. 400 km to the east of Sumbawa (Oppenheimer 2011).

Putting it all together

There is tendency in modern society (augmented by a socio-cultural climate of collapsology, debates on the Anthropocene etc.) to accept from an epistemological point of view that the traditional division between nature and culture is no longer operational. This not only the case for societies with an ontology that betrays this clearly but for all societies, including our own (cf. B. Latour: "Nous n'avons jamais été modernes"). At the basis of our ontological approach lies the idea, becoming somewhat prevalent today in social sciences, that the clear-cut distinction between nature and culture could actually be a misleading construct (Latour 1991; 2006). In essence and in relation to our multidisciplinary approach, this means that we should not predetermine what is part of society and what is part of nature but rather view these categories as complex negotiations between people and their world. This is precisely why the three disciplinary perspectives of our research project are complementary. Although they each have their specific starting point (volcanology-nature; anthropology-society; archaeology-material culture) and their particular sets of data, they actually already share, as we have argued, similar concerns. More fundamentally, by bringing their resources and methods together, we propose here an epistemological approach which is particularly well adapted, through our case studies, to trace the complex interactions between nature (here, volcanoes specifically) and culture without categorizing them in restrictive categories. Practically, the here presented approach stresses the interaction at multiple levels between the different disciplines (e.g. archaeologists will provide the contextualisation for geomorphological and micromorphological cores that allow the volcanologists to detect tephra; a comparison of material and oral culture will allow looking for correspondences or differences or see whether informants can help to explain patterns of changed material culture). This should not only allow the creation of a fertile dialogue between the three disciplines and the potential for a cross-fertilisation that may open the way for a communal methodology but also enable to assess various data sets in a diachronic and environmental perspective against the background of ethnographic analogies. Ideally, this will also allow us to better evaluate the balance between flexibility and rigidity in socio-political, cultural and socioecological conditions, coming back full circle to issues of resilience and vulnerability. Considering disasters as multidimensional and processual phenomena (i.e. how they unfold over time), and contextualising them within their ontological regime, we advocate that the integration of archaeological sources, anthropological research and volcanological tools and methods is key to comprehend the potential role played by eruptions in general and, by inference, by the Late Bronze Age eruption of Santorini and its potential role in the collapse of the Minoan society.