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AEGEAN ISLANDS

The ancient quarries

The quarries of Paros are an important geotope. A great part of the island’s growth since the ancient years is due to the marble deposits. The main quarries are located on mountain Profitis Ilias, 780m high. The first one is located between the monastery of Agios Minas and the church of Agii Anargyri. The second one is at Marathi, on the southeastern side of the mountain. The third one is the so-called quarry Kleanthi and the fourth one is near the village of Marmara. The fifth one is called “ancient tombs”.

During the period 2400 BC-2000 BC the island’s quarries were very productive. There had been marble exploitation in the Hellenistic and Roman period as well as during the 19th century. During the 44 centuries that passed since the exploitation began, there was mining activity at the same quarries, a fact that led to the extinction of the pervious period’s traces.

 

THE PARIAN STONE

The Parian marble was known to the ancient Greeks as Parian stone or garnet as the exploitation used to take place at the underground galleries by the light of oil lamps. It is a white, homogeneous marble with characteristic radiance and high sunlight permeability.

THE QUARRIES IN MARATHI

The ancient quarries are preserved today at the valley of the quarries near the village of Marathi. The most famous garnet quarry with underground galleries is called cave of the nymphs and it shows a great extent of underground works.

The commercial exploitation of garnet, after a long pause in the Byzantine years, experienced growth again during the Frankish period, when there was marble export to Chios and other places of Greece, or to Venice.

After the revolution of 1821, the exploitation of the quarries was undertaken by foreign companies, such as the French Marble Company and the Belgian Marble Company. The latter built facilities at Marathi and constructed a railway for the transportation of the marble to the port of Parikia. However, a few years later the company ceased its operation due to financial problems. Since 1881 the exploitation of the quarries passed on to the Greek Marble Company of Paros.

The site of the quarries constitutes a visitable monument of industrial archaeology today. In the modern era the mining of marble still goes on from quarries on other locations of Paros but the quantity is limited.

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