Minerals: the gifts of the earthquakes and the volcanoes in Aegean
by Vasilios Melfos, Assistant Professor
School of Geology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Mineral raw materials are crucial for the development of the modern societies, the environmentally friendly technologies and the Hi-Tech industrial products. Without them, there wouldn’t be any smartphones, laptops, or cars. They are extracted from large open pits or underground mines. Greece has a very unique geological history! The subduction of Africa beneath Eurasia is one of the most important geological phenomena in the world accompanied by volcanoes and earthquakes. Volcanoes in Aegean did not bring only disasters. Their action caused numerous mineral deposits, which have been used by the inhabitants since the Prehistoric times. Many Aegean islands were very wealthy thanks to the mineral raw materials.
Aegean prehistoric civilization was spread through sea traveling. Together, the raw materials were exported to faraway places, based on communications, trade, exchanges and knowledge. Obsidian from Milos island was one of the first rocks which was extensively used by humans and was transported around Aegean from 9,000 B.C. to 1,500 B.C. Obsidian is a volcanic rock made of natural glass and is formed when the hot lava is poured at the bottom of the cold sea, and solidifies very fast.
Millstone was one of the first tools used for grinding seeds to produce bread. Thus, millstones have played a leading role in the productive economy of humans, from prehistoric to modern times. Millstones were extracted in many volcanic Aegean islands and were distributed around the Mediterranean.
Marble was strongly related to the social, religious and economic life of ancient Greeks. It affected the rapid evolution of the technology and economy around Aegean, where extensive areas with pure white marble occur. Consequently there were plenty of raw materials during the antiquity for the construction of buildings like Parthenon with marbles from Penteli, Paros, Naxos, Karystos and Thasos.
The ancient civilization was based on metals which were mined around Aegean in many islands. Lavrion in Attica and Thasos island were very important mining centers operated by the Athenians and the Macedonians of Philipp II, respectively. In recent times numerous mineral deposits have been extracted by more than 200 mining companies since 14th century. The metal ores were transported by boats to the largest ports of the world (Piraeus, Roterdam, Liverpool, Bremen, Hamburg, Antwerpen, Black Sea, Boston, New York). Today there are only a few but very important mining operations in Thasos, Milos, Nisyros.
What about the future? Large rare metal deposits are formed today beneath the Aegean volcanoes. For example gold, antimony, thalium, silver, arsenic, mercury and zinc are enriched in the hydrothermal fluids at the underwater volcano of Kolumbo near Santorini. Possibly these deposits will be the future sources for metals.
Minerals: the gifts of the earthquakes and the volcanoes in Aegean – questions: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ME1juuPUU9T2UIMWLmR4vYaxtIkqjAYcnmA4gt9Amsw/edit
Minerals: the gifts of the earthquakes and the volcanoes in Aegean – presentation: