An ancient mystery concerning one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the last 4,000 years has been resolved using data collected from tree rings.

The eruption of the Thera volcano on the Greek island of Santorini was a major event felt as far afield as Turkey and Egypt.

Not only did the explosion bury the neighbouring Minoan settlement in a layer of ash and rock more than 40m deep, it has been linked with devastating rainstorms that threw ancient Egyptian society into disarray. 

However, despite extensive evidence for the event from across the Mediterranean region, identifying a precise date for it has proved difficult.

Archaeologists and scientists have pieced together the timing from written records, pottery fragments and radiocarbon dating of plant material preserved beneath the ash.

However, this evidence has been conflicting, and a team of researchers led by Professor Charlotte Pearson at the University of Arizona set out to solve the riddle.

"It's about tying together a timeline of ancient Egypt, Greece, Turkey and the rest of the Mediterranean at this critical point in the ancient world – that's what dating Thera can do," she explained.