Learning about Mining

These are some notes of mine from reading this article and a reading group convo.  Apologies for any errors/misrepresentations: I learn by writing this type of note.


Mineralization associated with detachment faults because change in pressure creates conditions for minerals to rise.


Isothermal fluid: minerals in solution from the magma



Northern Greece has both Placer Au and supergene Au-bearing iron oxides.

Pangaeon mountain (hills) discussed for precious metal wealth in ancient Greek authors, e.g. Herodotus, Thucydides.  Evidence of both underground and surface mining at 25 sites and 12 smelting sites.

On the island of Thasos directly off-shore likewise significant deposits accesses in antiquity.  The mineral wealth takes the form of Ag-rich Pb-Zn carbonate replacement and Au-rich Cu-Fe-Mn deposits in veins and lenses of mostly oxidised massive and disseminated ore in marble and schists.  In the classical-Roman period at least 5 Ag mines are known and two Au.


In an area of about 100 km2 extending from ancient Philippoi to Palea Kavala and Petropigi there are more than 150 ore occurrences rich in Fe, Mn, Pb, Zn, Cu, Ag, and Au, and numerous underground galleries are believed to have operated between 6th century BC and the Ottoman period.  Perhaps same as that discussion in Herodotus 6.46, Theophrastus On stones 17, Lucretius 6.810, and Plutarch Cimon 4.2.


Metangitsi shows evidence of Mining from the 5th century through Middle ages and Ottoman period.  This region’s mineralization includes: Cu-Au porphyry, Pb-Zn-Ag-Au carbonate replacement, Cu-skarn and oxidized Mn.


Different mines even on a smallish island like Thasos all have different Isotopic signatures.  This is because of different timing of events and slightly different creation conditions (if I understood discussion correctly!).  But no tracer is 100% indication of origin.  The more isotopes/ionization you use the better your identification.  Zinc is perhaps too volatile.  Copper can be misleading because it may be added from a different source, ditto lead, at least in some historical contexts.  Copper is less distinctive of the environment.  Tin isotopes not fully understood.    Trace elements, e.g. arsenic.  antimony isotopes might be a potential tracer.  Volatile at v high temps.  Could you sample it given minuscule amount in coin?  Raises question of destructive testing processes.

Recycling of brass might explain zinc in Eastern Roman coins.  ?  Check Haim Gitler’s work on Severan Silver checking Mattingly’s categorization.

Brass complicated process because of Zinc only mastered by Romans in 1st Cent BCE.  (Check)

Forthcoming work from Gil Davis and Ken Sheehy discussion when in 6th century BCE Athens began removing all gold from silver.

In about 2 weeks Metallurgy in Numismatics (Royal Numismatic Society) will be out! Must purchase ASAP.

Vaxevanpoulos – fame in antiquity doesn’t translate it scale of mining.  Forthcoming work on this.



1 thought on “Learning about Mining”

  1. My recent experience with this was eye-opening. In Turkey, there are tons of reports and conferences attended by mines researchers and archaeologists that are sort of (archaeo-)metallurgical because the economic stakes are so much higher. I am particularly interested in your number 7 on the first map (Balya), which is scarcely mentioned in ancient sources but was the largest lead-silver mine in the Middle East during late Ottoman industrialization. So I love your point about the lack of correlation between ancient fame and scale. It must be true. My feeling is that numismatic scholarship doesn’t necessarily operate with a mental map of the metallogenic places drawn up by modern mining (often prospecting from ancient sources!). I was amazed to find that the Biga peninsula is of the most metallogenic regions in the world at present! Prehistorians, I reckon, pay a lot more attention to this.


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