Many people believe that a massive volcanic eruption on the Greek island of Santorini is what inspired the legend of Atlantis. It is thought that the eruption occurred sometime between 1627 and 1600 B.C. While the exact year of the eruption is not known, a new study of bean weevils found in an ancient storage jar near the site tells us the exact time of year when the volcano erupted.

The storage jar had sweet peas that had been harvested for food, and the peas were infested with a species of bean weevil. This weevil has only one generation a year, and they infest beans while they are still growing. Because the beetles were killed instantly in the eruption, the stage they were in tells us they had to be killed sometime between June and early July.

Normally figuring out a season when a prehistoric volcanic eruption took place is almost impossible. Thanks to the bean weevils, the season has been established. That will make further studies of the eruption easier—especially analyzing the distribution of its ash and debris, based on seasonal weather patterns.