Laurion: The Silver Mines of Athens

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Athens was the richest of the ancient Greek states but her wealth came partly from the silver mines from Laurion in her own backyard on the south-east tip of Attica. The temple at Laurion is a dramatic site for the passengers on the ferries running out to the Greek islands. However, behind the temples some 700 ancient mine shafts and 200 ore processing facilities have been discovered.
The famous mines produced an ore with a silver content of just 0.1% so an elaborate washing process was essential to refine the ore before smelting. Here we see a large water storage system, to the left, from which water will be channelled through to the small cleaning basin to the right.

This article is an extract from the full article published in World Archaeology Issue 11. Click here to subscribe

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