Ancient Greek silver mine unearthed

Rare Greek silver stater of Phaistos (Crete) by Ancient Medieval Arts & Numismatics on Flickr.

Archeologists working in Thorikos, Greece, have found a pristine silver mine that has lain untouched for over 5,000 years. Thorikos on southern Attica – the peninsula that juts into the Aegean Sea –  was a site for ancient lead and silver mining.

In a post on Sunday, New Historian says the mining complex, discovered by French scientists from the University of Lorraine and the UMR National Center for Scientific Research 5608 of Toulouse, has infrastructure unlike any seen from the time period of around 3,200 BC.

Inside the mine a number of the open spaces (galleries) have been left untouched for more than 5000 years.

“The Greek mine is exceptional not only for its scope but for its layout as well, which is unlike any mining system existing in the area. The skill and physical abilities of the ancient miners to exploit the ore deposits and then to properly process the ore outside of the mine speaks not only to a deliberate strategy but to spatial and technological control over the entire process. Extracting the silver would have required an exceptional amount of resources and an advanced technical system of a scale unique in the ancient world,” according to New Historian.

“Inside the mine a number of the open spaces (galleries) have been left untouched for more than 5000 years. Mapping the system of mining shafts has proven extremely difficult even for experienced archaeologists, who are required to wear high-tech equipment through the cramped and intertwining network of shafts in stifling conditions and temperatures up to 70° Fahrenheit.”

The publication notes the mine was likely worked by slaves, who would work around the clock in extreme working conditions to extract the ore. reported in November that German researchers detected traces of mining activity in Central Europe dating back to the Bronze Age, which resumed later in the early Middle Ages. The Aegean Bronze Age begins around 3,000 BC.