Grinding stones in Thorikos (Attica, Greece). Typology, function and provenance

Begin - Einde 
2017 - 2021 (lopend)
Vakgroep Archeologie



This research focuses on the typology, function and provenance determination of the grinding stones used in Thorikos from the Bronze Age to Early Hellenistic times. This ancient settlement and mining town is located along the south-eastern coast of Attica, in the mining region of the Laurion. It has a very long history that goes back to the end of the Final Neolithic. Thorikos particularly flourished during the 4th century BCE, when it contributed to the large-scale production of silver in the Laurion. Since 1963, several archaeological interventions have led to the discovery of more than 180 grinding stones, mainly ranging from the Middle Bronze Age to the Early Hellenistic period.

Preliminary examination of these finds reveals that most are made of non-local volcanic rocks. This suggests the participation of their users in regional or supra-regional exchange networks for the supply of these implements. Earlier studies have sketched distribution routes for grinding stones in the Aegean (Williams-Thorpe and Thorpe, 1993). However, these studies are scarce and based on a limited amount of finds. Discovering the provenance of the grinding stones in Thorikos provides additional data for the reconstruction of these trade routes, which may contribute to a better understanding of ancient economic choices.

Another focus of this research is the function of these grinding stones. Especially during the 4th century BCE, the extracted silver-rich lead ores were ground, washed and concentrated in ore-processing workshops throughout the Laurion. Hopper-rubber mills, also called Olynthus mills, are generally held to be the implements used for this purpose. However, their function in the workshops isn’t fully understood yet: it is unsure whether they were used to grind the ores or to grind cereals for the workers.

Consequently, this study aims to investigate the provenance of the grinding stones in Thorikos, in combination with their type and function, to provide more insight into the economic choices made by their users through time. The study combines macroscopic study, 3D-modelling, petrographic and geochemical analyses to determine the typology, the function and the provenance of the finds.