John Kepper


19th-century descriptions of Third Contact ores and the accompanying geological cross sections of unmined ore bodies in the same area, and at the same elevation as the ancient galleries, are useful in evaluating the nature of the ancient ores mined at Laurium. When these are supplemented by recent information on the geology and mineralogy at Laurium, and on the chemistry and mineralogy of the slag and tailings, a better understanding of ancient furnace charges emerges. The ore charged to the smelting furnaces appears to have consisted predominantly of argentiferous galena supplemented by oxide ore, including cerussite. Only the dark-coloured cerussite with sulphide/sulphosalt inclusions was argentiferous and a source of silver. Cerussite had several functions in the smelting operations including: as a source of lead oxide to reduce slag viscosity and to oxidise galena, as a source of silver, and as a contributor of lead necessary to scavenge silver. Closure of the mines at the end of the 1st century BC may have resulted from much of the pure galena ore being mined out leaving lower grade oxide ore and the more complex sulphide ore, not amenable to ancient benefi ciation processes. The decline of Athens as an international power and the scarcity of wood for the furnaces contributed to the end of mining at Laurium.


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How to Cite
John Kepper, J. K. (2021). Third Contact ore mineralogy at Laurium, Greece. Historical Metallurgy, 39(1), 1–11. Retrieved from