The Eureka moment
The first letter pertinent to this story was written following a meeting with Lyell, when Spratt wrote to him to clarify a point about the island’s movement:
Dear Sir Charles, Fearing you may be impressed with the idea that the eastern end of Crete had gone down as much as the west. I am induced to write a line to rectify it, if so; and to state that movements in the eastern half of the island have neither been as great nor apparently as uniform as the western movement. Both are subsequent to the historic period and the evidences are in both instances indicated by the elevation or partial submergences of some ancient Greek building or city.
The letter was written on 28 February 1856, which was a Thursday. The two must have met the previous evening because the following day, 29 February 1856, Spratt wrote again to Lyell confirming the situation, perhaps as an afterthought:
My dear Sir Charles, You understood me quite right on Wednesday evening in respect to the fact that the western half of Crete having been elevated, and the eastern half depressed or gone down a few feet.
In the book Crete: Its Past, Present and People (Faber & Faber 1977), author Adam Hopkins wrote that ‘He [Spratt] noted quite correctly, that much of western Crete had risen by a whole eight metres. It was also believed, wrongly, that eastern Crete had sunk by a comparative extent.’ Hopkins does not make it clear as to whom he means by ‘it’ but the above letter (of the 28 February 1856) to Lyell showed that Spratt certainly did not believe this.
This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 38. Click here to subscribe