As anticipated, both Gilbert Bagnani’s and Doro Levi’s bursaries to study at the Italian School had been renewed for a second year. Arriving Tuesday Jan 2, Gilbert was met at Piraeus by Doro Levi, who was about to leave with the other male students for the Cycladic islands. After contacting the Skouzes family, who invited him for dinner, Gilbert left the next day to catch up with the others on their way to Santorini.
Santorini is the most spectacular of all the Greek islands, being the remnants of a volcanic crater into which ships can sail around the small new islands growing up in the centre. Some thousand feet straight up the sheer cliffs of pumice and ash perched on the edge sits the town of Phira, which is approached from the sea by a zig-zagging donkey path. Sometime around 1620 BCE, one of the most massive eruptions ever scientifically documented emptied the mountain which then collapsed deep into the sea, leaving the enormous crater. The cataclysm destroyed and buried the Minoan settlements around the island under many metres of ash and pumice, which was later used by French engineers to build the Suez Canal in 1869. One particularly observant Frenchman actually conducted the first scientific excavation under the ash layer of a prehistoric settlement at Akrotiri, whose pots Gilbert saw on display in the local museum. Gilbert may not have known of an article that just appeared in 1922 in a French journal, the Bulletin de Correspondance hellénique, dating the pottery in the French School from these early excavations to the beginning of the Late Minoan IA period in terms of Cretan Bronze Age pottery styles.
In the early 1920s, however, the most extensive visible remains known on the island were Classical, especially the Hellenistic city of Thera on the south coast. Gilbert’s very brief published report observing some classical remains of an ancient town near the north coast is now cited as the only trace of evidence for its location. After one week on the island, the Italians sailed back to Athens.
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