Laurion: Archaeological studies on ancient mining activity and settlement patterns in the Attic mining district in pre-history and antiquity
The Lauriotike, one of the most important mining regions of ancient Greece, has been a subject of scholarly interest since the early 19th century. The mines of southeast Attica assumed growing economic importance for classical Athens in Late Archaic times with the issue of the famous ‟Athenian owl” coinage. The exploitation of the silver mines enabled the Athenians, under the leadership of Themistocles, to form the naval fleet that defeated the Persian army and thus helped this city-state to become one of the greatest powers of its time.
The numerous, extremely well-preserved historic sites document all stages of the ancient mining activity and present an excellent source not only for research on ancient technology but also for questions concerning the social and economic history of Greece. Despite the well-known importance of the Laurion area that has come down to us in literary form, and the abundance of modern monographs and journal articles on this subject, more work remains to be done. Three decades after the publication of the fundamental book Le Laurium Antique by K. Konophagos, the examination and evaluation of recent studies will lead to important new conclusions. A critical analysis of prevailing views is a promising undertaking. One field of research which has been neglected so far is the co-existence of mining and agriculture in the Lauriotike. This will be examined more closely using methods of modern landscape and settlement archaeology, an approach which will generate insights into the economic and social history of the different historical periods of Attica.
The mapping of selected areas will contribute to the analysis of the use of space, and of the setting of the technological installations within the landscape.
Even though many of the remains still visible today date back to the classical period, Xenophon, at the end of the 4th century BC, was already uncertain about when mining activity had begun in the Laurion area. Further archaeological research, especially on the prehistoric exploitation of the mines, is certain to produce many new insights.
The re-smelting of the ancient slags, the re-opening of mines by the mining companies of the 19th century and the construction of holiday homes in the 20th century have had disastrous effects on the archaeological remains, many of which have disappeared altogether. For this reason, new archaeological research is urgently needed.
Sophia Nomicos / Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Prof. Dr. Hans Lohmann / Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Prof. Dr. Ernst PernickaErhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen
Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum
- Nomicos, S., 2013. Laurion: : Some remarks on the settlement pattern and the “helicoidal washeries”. Metalla 20.2, pp. 25-27.