Some 5000 years ago, silver mining on the shores of the Aegean Sea
An exceptional archaeological discovery at Thorikos
Source: Ghent University
At the foot of the Mycenaean Acropolis of Thorikos (Greece), a team of mining archaeologists, discovered, in 2016 an inextricable network of galleries, shafts and chambers. About 5 kilometers of subterranean conduits dug in the marble and the limeschists of Attica have been explored and surveyed. These lead to labyrinths of complex mining works. It constitutes at present the widest underground network explored in this part of the Aegean world.
The mine that has been discovered in Thorikos is exceptional in its lay-out and extension. Up to now mining archaeologists working in the Laurion area did not explore such a complex network of galleries and mining infrastructure. They show the physical capacities and skills of the ancient miners to exploit these complex ore deposits and to assure ore dressing activities outside the mine from the Prehistory on. It testifies to a deliberate strategy and to perfect technological and spatial control over the process: an exceptional concentration of means to extract silver and a sophisticated technical system that in its scale is unique within the ancient world.
Already exploited since the 4th / 3rd millennium BC, by the 5th and 4th centuries BC these silver mines constituted the most important mining district of Greece, laying at the basis of Athens' domination of the Aegean world.
The 2015 underground survey campaign brought new information on the mining techniques developed since the first metal ages in this strategic zone of the eastern Mediterranean. The ongoing research not only aims to survey these subterranean remains, but it will also allow to understand the mining technologies of these early periods, the management of mineral resources, their extraction and processing as well as the circulation of the end products... These achievements of human ingenuity already foreshadow the technological advances of the Middle Ages.