Thorikos occupies the east coast of the Lavrion area in Attica, Greece. The ancient town comprised a double-bay harbour at Agios Nikolaos, the Adami plain with the lower Potami valley, and the Velatouri hill, which has seen human activity since the Final Neolithic. A defensible hill, a port and a plain were all sufficient reasons for human settlement, but there was more: the bedrock here is rich in silver, and mining began in the Final Neolithic/Early Bronze Age, c. 3200 BC. From the Middle and Late Helladic periods, there are monumental tombs as well as pottery; from the Iron Age graves, buildings and pottery; the subsequent Archaic period has left little architectural or metallurgical data, but many tombs and a rich pottery repertory.
In the early 5th century BC, a stone theatre was built as one of the first in the ancient world, and Thorikos became a multifaceted town with houses, graves, roads and shrines juxtaposed to industrial installations (mines, ore washeries, cisterns and towers). Sacred features include cemeteries, an urban sanctuary and a monumental terrace. Ore furnaces were located off-site, however, and in the Adami plain, a stoa was built, perhaps as part of a sanctuary. This floruit can be related to an increased use of silver: the mines were owned by the Athenian state, and concessions were leased to entrepreneurs with workforces of slaves and labourers. Less archaeological data has come from the Hellenistic period, and a coin hoard from c. 295 BC is thought to signal an abandonment connected to the Macedonian influx – but there is a fair amount of Hellenistic pottery and evidence of activity in some mines. By the Roman imperial period, Thorikos was probably only sparsely occupied, but there was again prospecting and probably habitation in the 6th-8th centuries AD, before the settlement fell silent. It came to life again in the 19th century, when mining was resumed – and archaeological interest took hold.
Ghent University, with Roald Docter as general project director, coordinates the various subprojects that are undertaken in Thorikos by more than 40 scientific collaborators from more than 12 international universities and institutions.