West KarkotisAtsasMandresAsinouKoutraphasLagoudheraEast
Iron Age 

4.23 Lagoudhera Valley: Hellenistic to Roman

There are two main foci of mining and other activity in the Hellenistic to Roman periods in the Lagoudhera Valley: the mining adits and settlement at Litharkies (.mov panorama) (TS05); and the slag heap and settlement at Mavrovouni (.mov panorama) (TS02). Both these areas had dense blankets of more than 200 Hellenistic to Roman sherds per 100m² in several SUs (e.g. SU0622, SU2605, SU2632, SU2648).

Mining cannot be carried out in isolation. Ore requires processing and smelting, and that requires water, fuel, flux and clay. Miners require places to live and food to eat. Understanding the mining in this area is to understand those who mined it, processed the ore, smelted, farmed and lived in the area. The interwoven relationship between Mavrovouni and Litharkies means they need to be analysed together. Litharkies served principally for living and mineral extraction, and Mavrovouni was vital to the processing and smelting of this extracted mineral. They operated together to produce the copper. Despite some pottery from the Iron Age, it is in the Hellenistic period at Litharkies (TS05) that the scale of the activity starts to grow. Pottery densities range up to 2.2 sherds per 100m², covering a much wider area than the Iron Age. Densities no greater than 1.2 sherds per 100m² and more widely spread distribution at the Mavrovouni slag heap indicate different or smaller scale activity. Given the good ore resources and poor agricultural resources of the area, this may indicate that mining at or around Alestos (TP005) and smelting at Mavrovouni (TP006) had begun by the Hellenistic period.

TS05 Xyliatos Litharkies

Xyliatos Litharkies (TS05) is located on the south side of Alestos peak. A large number of rock piles (TP210) cleared from the fields are dense with pottery and tile, with figures ranging up to a massive 478 sherds per 100m² (SU2605). These are clearly the remains of buildings from a Hellenistic and Roman settlement. The variety of pottery from these periods reinforces the interpretation of this area as a focus of cooking and eating.

Pottery densities in this area continue to grow from the Hellenistic to the Early Roman and finally the Late Roman. This increase in activity is reflected at Mavrovouni. The Hellenistic pottery is almost exclusively tableware. Some of this might derive from tombs, and so could be evidence for funeral ceremonies as much as the meals eaten by the living.

In addition to the stone piles and the density of pottery, there is other evidence of settlement and ore processing at Litharkies. A plaster-lined Roman well or cistern (TP191) may have been used to supply water for processing the ore before it was transported, as well as for cooking, bathing and drinking. Evidence for ore processing can also be found in the geomorphology around the settlement. The geomorphological units in this area all contain mining spoil and crushed ore, which may be modern but may also mask ancient ore processing (GU2612, GU2614, GU2696, GU2697).

Ancient mining seems to have occurred all over the summit and south slope of Alestos. On the south-facing slope, two adits (TP122; TP148) were located just upslope from a survey unit (SU2621) where several Roman and Historical Antiquity sherds were found. Other adits and exploratory cuts are present on Alestos and many could have been in use during this period, but the supporting pottery is not present.

The density of pottery increases both at Litharkies (over 3.8 sherds per 100m²) and at the smelting site of Mavrovouni (over 8.2 sherds per 100m²), where the distribution becomes geographically concentrated south of the slag heap during the Early Roman period. Distribution in the area south of the slag heap (TP006) becomes even more concentrated during the Late Roman period. This may indicate the period of greatest activity at Mavrovouni and Litharkies.

For those leaving Litharkies on the way to Mavrovouni, walking beneath the towering peak of Alestos with its adits (.mov panorama), the journey took them past what is almost certainly a tomb (TP146). Whether this contained friends, enemies, bosses or family members, passing it was a constant reminder that dying and burying was another part of this landscape. Given the nature of the main activity occurring here, it may also have served as a reminder of the ever-present dangers of mining.

The slag heap at Ayia Marina Mavrovouni (TP006) dates from the Roman period. Much of it has been quarried away in the 20th century, though this has revealed the stratigraphy (Given et al. 2002, 31-2).

TP006 Ayia Marina Mavrovouni

A recent cut made to plant an olive tree reveals in situ furnace lining. The practice of placing the furnace in the waste material was common, and also recorded at Skouriotissa slag heap (TS01). The quarrying revealed three differently orientated sections. None of the sections reached the base of the slag heap, limiting analysis to the later phases. The heap was composed of both complete slag cakes and slag fragments. The size of the slag heap indicates large-scale production. It is probable the mineworkers transported the copper ore here for smelting from Alestos, 1.5km to the south-west.

While much of the ore processed at Mavrovouni clearly came from Alestos, that was not the only source of ore in the area. There is excellent evidence for mining activity at Xyliatos Ayios Kyriakos (TS10), 600m south of Mavrovouni slag heap. The mining is clearly small scale, and it is difficult to determine if this is small-scale exploration during the Roman period or else prehistoric mining. If it is Roman they may have stopped mining this area once the sources on Alestos began to be exploited.

TS10 Xyliatos Ayios Kyriakos

Xyliatos Ayios Kyriakos (TS10) is a cluster of five adits (TP050, TP051, TP052, TP054, TP055), shafts and prospection cuts (TP053, TP056, TP057, TP058). They are situated on both sides of a vertical-sided gully formed by the Lagoudhera River. While the area lacks diagnostic finds, the trapezoidal shape of the adits definitely makes them ancient, possibly prehistoric (Given et al. 2002, 32).

The largest of these adits is TP050. The entrance is trapezoidal in shape, and although it has collapsed it was possible to determine a depth of at least 5m. The ceiling of the adit was discoloured by fire. It is unclear whether this was evidence of ancient fire-setting to process the ore, or if it is evidence of later use.

Based on the scale of the slag heap at Mavrovouni, the adits at Ayios Kyriakos could not be the primary copper ore source. That was most likely Alestos. The mine at Alestos, the settlement at Litharkies and the slag heap and settlement at Mavrovouni were all clearly interdependent. The production and processing of copper was an operation that took place on a landscape scale.