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Τετάρτη, 14 Αυγούστου 2019

A trip to the Geological and Ancient Mining Lavrion

Today, we present a work on ancient Lavrio,  a  Journey to the ancient mining Lavrio, by the well known Greek geologist and important scholar of Lavrio Mr. Dimitris Bitzios.

The Lavrion mines had a major effect on the creation of the Golden Age of Athenian democracy that followed.
Βy Dimitris Bitzios , Dr. Geologist

Παρουσιάζουμε σήμερα μια εργασία για το αρχαίο Λαύριο, που αποτελεί ιστορικό ορόσημο με μεγάλη σημειολογική αξία για τον τόπο μας, μια παγκόσμια πολιτιστική κουλτούρα, μεταλλευτική και όχι μόνο,  που θα ήταν άδικο να μην έχει την ανάλογη απήχηση σε όλο τον κόσμο. Στα αγγλικά λοιπόν, από τον κ. Δημήτρη Μπίτζιο, το οδοιπορικό του αρχαίου Λαυρίου για να ολοκληρωθεί η ίδια μελέτη από τον ίδιο συγγραφέα.

Today, we present a work on ancient Lavrio,  a  Journey to the ancient mining Lavrio, by the well known Greek geologist and important scholar of Lavrio Mr. Dimitris Bitzios. It is a complete mapping of historical and scientific data that the modern scholar of ancient Lavrion should know.
 
Lavrion (also Lavrio, Laurio, Laurium, Λαύριο), is a municipality of almost 170 sq Km at the south east side of Athens, with great historical and monumental density. According to the new administrative changes, it includes almost all of the Lavreotiki peninsula (and more of 25 thousand of inhabitants) which currently approaches the area in which the mining and metal works operated in both ancient and modern times.

There is evidence that the ancient Greeks started mining in the Lavrio area before 3000 BC, indicating that this was the starting point of mining in the whole Europe. The systematic and intensive exploitation of the silver and lead ores though, began with the birth of the Athenian Republic in 500 BC. In 483 BC the discovery of rich vein of silver in the vicinity of modern Ag. Konstantinos, otherwise known as Maronia, prompted large scale extraction and metallurgical processing of the mineral by the Athenians.

Thus, the Lavrion mines had a major effect on the creation of the Golden Age of Athenian democracy that followed. The mines belonged to the city of Athens, and they were rented out to various individuals for a fixed percentage of the production. The most difficult work, including the extracting underground ore was done by slaves, many of whom lost their lives in the harsh process.

The wealth produced in the Lavrion mines was initially used at the insistence of Themistokles to construct a formidable navy of war "triremes" (specific ancient vessel). The Athenian navy proved to be of critical utility soon thereafter, when Xerxes invaded Greece with the Persian army by land and his navy by sea in 480 BC.

The silver extracted from the mines was transformed into the Athenian Tetrhadrachmon coin, which became the dominant commercial currency of the eastern Mediterranean during the classical era. These coins, along with the tribute paid by their allies in the Delian league, bestowing even more wealth upon Athenian citizens who used it to maintain their empire and to finance grand cultural projects.

The mines eventually declined during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC) and stopped producing soon after the Spartans controlled access to the mines. Afterward, silver and lead extraction continued on and off throughout the subsequent centuries, but production never reached the volume produced during the Classical era.

The mines were abandoned in the 6th c. CE, and only reopened in 19th c. CE. In 1863, the Italian mining engineer and operator J.B.Serpieri, gets convinced to exploit the ancient slags, after having been consulted the detailed report of the young mining engineer A. Kordellas, who was sent by the Greek young government to visit Lavreotiki in1860, on that purpose. So, there has been a new era for Lavrion mines that worked for almost 100 years, till modern times. The extraction of lead and silver (in smaller quantities) helped finance the newly formed country of Greece in the 19th c. CE.

The Lavrion mines were finally abandoned after most of the "easy" ore deposits were exhausted in 1982. Moreover, from late1980's till now, Lavrio faced a new cycle of industrial crisis, as a result of the broader de-industrialization all over Greece. Tens of units ceased their operation and more than the 20% of the population left the town, due to unemployment.

Today, several abandoned mining sites sprinkle the rugged landscape around the modern town of Lavrion. The most prominent archaeological site is located in the vicinity of Agios Konstantinos-Kamariza place. The ancient mine extraction site is easily accessible by car but poorly signposted and with no facilities anywhere nearby. Unfortunately by the years, there was an unevitable decay that needs a special restoration care.

However, nowadays, a new circle has already started for Lavrio. It is the time of updating and highlighting its industrial heritage: geological, mineralogical, mining, metallurgical. Together with the archaelogical, historical and cultural ones. All in a turistic package that is international, unique and extremely challenging. Today, we have all realised that development is meaningless unless our monuments and envoronment are respected and our cultural identity preserves.


ΛΑΥΡΙΟ, ΓΙΑ ΟΣΟΥΣ ΑΓΑΠΟΥΝ ΤΟ ΛΑΥΡΙΟ Laurio, for everyone who loves laurio

Οδοιπορικό στο αρχαίο και νεότερο μεταλλευτικό Λαύριο