UN@ est une plateforme d'édition de livres numériques pour les presses universitaires de Nouvelle-Aquitaine

Provenancing the grinding stones of Thorikos (Attica, Greece)
Preliminary observations



Numerous studies of the last decades have emphasised the potential of volcanic grinding stones in unravelling past Mediterranean exchange networks and trade routes. Further research into this matter will lead to a better understanding of the decisions as to the why and how of ancient economic and technological choices, notably that of raw material. Rocks from non-local sources were at times preferred to rocks from closer sources due to their mechanical properties rendering them more suitable for grinding. Durability, rough texture, and excellent resistance to abrasion are highly desirable qualities for milling. Volcanic rocks generally possess these properties and were therefore often fashioned into grinding implements. Moreover, in certain cases, they were imported far from their sources, a theme which will be discussed further in the next section.

In spite of the many volcanic grinding tool finds in the Southern Aegean, few have been the subject of provenance studies. The discovery of numerous examples of exogenous volcanic rocks at Thorikos, an ancient settlement and mining town established along the southeastern coast of Attica (Fig. 1), has led to delving deeper into this question. The aim of this paper presented during the session Querns and Mills in Antiquity at the 2018 EAA Conference in Barcelona is to offer a series of preliminary results regarding the macroscopic study of 40 cases and propose hypotheses as to their provenance.

Map of the Southern Aegean with the sites cited in the text and the Aegean Volcanic Arc indicated by the red dashed line (drawing by S. Duchène).
Fig. 1. Map of the Southern Aegean with the sites cited in the text and the Aegean Volcanic Arc
indicated by the red dashed line (drawing by S. Duchène).

This study is broken down into three sections. The introduction offers an overview of different provenance research on volcanic grinding stones in the Mediterranean and provides a chronological timeframe for the site of Thorikos. The second section presents the material both in terms of typology and raw material. The final section sums up the study’s main findings.

An overview of provenance research in the Mediterranean
and the Southern Aegean

Prior quern and millstone research on the provenance volcanic stones from the 1980s and 1990s (Peacock 1980; Runnels 1981; Elliott et al. 1986; Xenophontos, Elliott & Malpas 1988; Williams-Thorpe 1988; Williams-Thorpe & Thorpe 1989, 1990, 1993; Williams-Thorpe et al. 1991) laid down the framework for more recent analyses. Grinding stones brought to light in the western and central Mediterranean have received considerable attention from several researchers including F. Antonelli, L. Lazzarini, A. Renzulli1. Noteworthy are other provenance studies of Levantine basaltic rock artefacts, two of which specifically focusing on grinding implements (Watts et al. 2004, Beller et al. 2016) have recently been reviewed by Gluhak and Rosenberg (2018).

More recent provenance studies in the Aegean, on the contrary, are scarce, especially concerning the south of the Aegean where the current state of knowledge still predominantly relies upon the work of Williams-Thorpe and Thorpe (1993) and Runnels (Cohen & Runnels 1981; Runnels 1981, 1985). The latter analysed the grinding stones from the Argolid (Attica) and the Kyrenia shipwreck and in attempt to identify potential quarries. He determined certain volcanic outcrops along the Saronic Gulf as potential primary sources of grinding stones exported to the Argolid and Attica until Classical times. Runnels also suggested that, from that period onwards, other sources along the southern Aegean Volcanic Arc (Fig. 1) played a significant role in millstone production (Runnels 1981, 124-126). One of his samples matched an outcrop from Nisyros, which in Antiquity was already known to have produced grinding stones (Strab., Geography, 10.5.16). However, Runnels could only sample seven artefacts and undertake a single petrographic analysis. As he noted himself (1981, 65, 67), his results could only be preliminary.

Williams-Thorpe and Thorpe (1993), a decade later, conducted a large-scale XRF-based provenance study on 69 eastern Mediterranean volcanic querns and millstones. The artefacts were from 20 sites and museums ranging in date from the Neolithic to Roman times. The results of this study, combined with earlier research, reveal that the transport and distribution of grinding stones in the Eastern Mediterranean increased significantly in complexity and coverage throughout Prehistory and the later Greek and Roman periods (Williams-Thorpe & Thorpe 1993, 292). The trade networks supplying of these stones evolved from somewhat isolated systems in the Bronze Age to complex and overlapping structures in Roman times. Even though these authors established a baseline for current provenance studies in the Mediterranean, their input for the southern Aegean is relatively limited. Indeed, most of the artefacts of their study were finds from the Levant, Cyprus, and Egypt (Williams-Thorpe, Thorpe 1993, Appendix A) with only seven from Anatolia and merely six from mainland Greece.

Since then, little of this type of research has been carried out on finds from the southern Aegean. M. Mexi explored the provenance of ground stone tools from the Early Bronze Age at Koropi (Attica) (Mexi 2009) with preliminary results suggesting that the raw materials were probably imported from the Saronic Gulf. A. Katerinopoulos, G. Kokkorou-Alevras, K. Mavrogonatos and E. Poupaki (Katerinopoulos et al. 2016) have more recently delved into the provenance of hopper rubber mills and Late Hellenistic/Early Byzantine rotary mills from the Apollo Sanctuary and the Late Roman settlement of Halasarna (Kos). Their study included mineralogical and geochemical analysis of 13 geological samples collected at Kos and Nisyros and 22 archaeological samples. Their findings confirm the presence of a quarry for hopper rubber mills on Nisyros and identified that rotary mills were produced on Kos in the Early Byzantine period (Katerinopoulos et al. 2016, 188-190).

These different studies offer an overview of the maritime routes and networks serving from the Bronze Age to the Roman period to transport volcanic grinding stones across the Mediterranean. The image that emerges is one of increasing complexity. However, as indicated above, the dataset for the southern Aegean is relatively limited. The discovery of grinding stones in Thorikos made of non-local volcanic rocks therefore offers the opportunity to expand upon the current theoretical knowledge.


The site of Thorikos has been the object of investigation by Ghent University and other Belgium and European institutions2 since 1963. It lies on the Velatouri hill in the mining region of the Laurion (Fig. 2). During the Classical period, large amounts of silver-rich lead ore were extracted and processed in specialised workshops, mainly during the 4th century BC.

The site has a long history reported in a series of publications (Mussche 1998; Docter et al. 2010, 42-49). Its pottery ranges from the Final Neolithic to the Byzantine period (Docter et al. 2010, 42), whereas its residential structures span the Middle Helladic (2000-1600 BC) and Hellenistic (323-27 BC) periods (Mussche 1998, 61, 64). Human activity appears to have significantly increased during the 5th and 4th centuries BC. This coincides with the erection of buildings in two specific areas: near the theatre, and in zone labelled the Industrial Quarter (Fig. 2). This modern name given by the excavator reflects the physical and social environment of Thorikos during the 4th century BC. It was a moment when many dwellings were converted into ore processing workshops transforming the residential settlement into an almost industrial mining town. Even if the 4th century BC represented the high point of Thorikos, human activity on the Velatouri never really ceased. Hellenistic and Roman finds are rare but not completely absent, and a modest revival in the Early Byzantine times is attested by the results of a recent excavation of cistern n°1 (Fig. 2) (doctor et al. 2011, 119-120). In the 19th and 20th centuries, mining activity temporarily resumed in the Laurion, leaving scars in the archaeological record.

Contour map indicating the different features of the site of Thorikos (Stal et al. 2018).
Fig. 2. Contour map indicating the different features of the site of Thorikos (Stal et al. 2018).

The material

The dataset

Research at Thorikos has currently yielded more than 179 complete or fragmented grinding stones and other stone tools of varying lithology. Sixty-one were unearthed during excavations while 118 were collected during an intra-site field-walking survey. The present author is currently conducting a typological, functional and provenance study of these finds within the framework of a PhD thesis.

The present study thus offers the preliminary results of a macroscopic study of the morphology and raw material of 40 stone tools (Table 1) corresponding approximately to a quarter of the assemblage (a full publication is planned at a later stage). Thirty of the 40 were collected during surface surveys led by Ghent and Utrecht Universities between 2012 and 2015 (van den Eijnde et al. 2018).3 The remaining 10 were unearthed during various excavations conducted since 1963.

Although most of the material presented here consists of fragmented surface finds, certain trends emerge both in terms of shape and raw material, aspects discussed in the following sections.

Grinding stone forms and types

The grinding tool finds fall into several categories: reciprocal handmills (aka saddle querns); small handstones serving for grinding, crushing, pounding or abrading; hopper rubber mills (aka Olynthus mills); hourglass-shaped mills (aka Pompeian or Morgantina mills); and rotary querns4. These are the main types of grinding and crushing tools generally encountered from the Bronze Age to Late Antiquity (Peacock 2013; Alonso & Frankel 2017).

Reciprocal handmills

The largest category of finds at Thorikos is that of a series of implements that Runnels (1981, 3) labelled “reciprocal handmills”. They consist of a static or immobile lower stone coupled with a mobile upper stone driven with a to-and-fro motion. These handmills serving to grind a variety of materials are traditionally known as “saddle querns” (Williams-Thorpe & Thorpe 1993, 265; Alonso & Frankel 2017, 463). This name stems from the typical shape of the section of certain cases bearing active surfaces that are longitudinally concave. Research has nonetheless revealed that handmills driven with a to-and-fro motion can take on other forms (Hürlimann 1965, 72, Abb. 1; Zimmerman 1988, 724-725, Abb. 640; Donner & Marzoli 1994, 77, fig. 4; Risch 2008, 8-9, P/04; Graefe 2013, 79, Abb. 4; Peacock 2013, 12-16). Stroulia, Dubreuil, Robitaille and Nelson (Stroulia et al. 2017, 122-123) have recently highlighted this diversity. It is for this reason that this paper resorts to the term “reciprocal handmill” for this type.

Runnels research on the grinding stones of the Argolid and Attica determined that most reciprocal handmills from the Bronze Age and the Geometric period (900-700 BC) tend to be oval or elliptical5. These handmills from the Archaic period (750-490 BC) onwards most often consist of an elliptical upper stone combined with a rectangular lower stone (Runnels 1981, 352-353, fig. 36-37), a trend that appears to be followed at Thorikos.

The corpus of reciprocal handmills forming part of this study consists of four complete and 20 fragmentary lower and upper stones bearing oval, elliptical, rectangular or irregular contours. These groups are briefly discussed in the following paragraphs.

The first group consists of eight oval or possibly oval pieces (Fig. 3). Three are respectively either complete, almost complete or halves (Fig. 3a-e-f). The remaining are rather poorly preserved fragments. Their active surfaces tend to be concave in the longitudinal sense and concave or flat in cross-section. The dorsal faces of the best-preserved are generally hemispheric longitudinally and slightly asymmetric in cross-section. Four reveal a concave active surface in both directions suggesting that they served as lower stones (Fig. 3a-d). One is clearly an upper stone (Fig. 3e) while the others remain undetermined (Fig. 3f-g).

Most are surface finds are difficult to date. There are two exceptions. The first is a lower stone (Fig. 3a) discovered in 1971 in the Geometric settlement located the zone of the West-Necropolis (Fig. 2). Based on its shape and the chronology of the area (Bingen 1967a, 1967b, 1968, 1969, 1984; Mussche 1998, 61), it belongs either to the Geometric (900-700 BC) or an earlier period. The second (Fig. 3f) was among Archaic pottery in rock cracks under the floor of Room CW of House n°3 in the Industrial Quarter (Mussche 1990, 39-48). This suggests it was discarded during the Archaic period (750-490 BC). Oval handmills tend to be linked to Bronze Age contexts in Argolid and Attica (Runnels 1981, 350, fig. 34) but continued to serve in both Geometric (Runnels 1981, 118) and even later times.

Oval or possibly oval reciprocal handmills (S. Duchène).
Fig. 3. Oval or possibly oval reciprocal handmills (S. Duchène).

The second group consists of six pieces that are either elliptical or possibly elliptical (Fig. 4). Their active surfaces tend to be concave longitudinally and convex in cross-section. Their dorsal faces are longitudinally hemispheric or rectangular with rounded bases. Their cross-sections are mainly hemispheric and slightly asymmetrical. All are likely upper stones given their elongated form and a few visible traces of use-wear. At least three (Fig. 4a-c) might tentatively be defined as overlapping upper stones (molette débordantes) (Zimmerman 1988, 725, Abb. 640, Form 1; Hamon et al. 2017, 301-306). This type of upper stone is characterised by a length that surpasses the width of a lower stone. Moreover, although not all criteria may be met in every case, these are also set apart by longitudinally concave active surfaces, protruding ends and specific wear (Hamon et al. 2017, 302-306).

Elliptical or possibly elliptical reciprocal handmills (S. Duchène).
Fig. 4. Elliptical or possibly elliptical reciprocal handmills (S. Duchène).

One of these elliptical upper stones is dated to the 4th century BC (Fig. 4a). With its pointed ends and hemispheric profile, it is the only complete6 example of the second group and is representative of upper stones found in the Aegean from the Archaic period (750-490 BC) onwards (Runnels 1981, 118). It was found in a layer of demolition and fill during the excavation of 1968 of Room CP of the northern sector of Insula 3 within the Industrial Quarter (Fig. 2). According to H. Mussche, this sector was probably occupied by a house in the 5th century that was overbuilt in the 4th century (1998, 54-55). Worth highlighting is the inscription it bears interpreted as an eta or a zeta by J. Bingen (1971, 162). The specimen resembles the 4th century classical boat-shaped handstones studied by Runnels at Halieis (1981, 338-339, Kardulias & Runnels 1995, 116). It is likewise similar to the handstones brought to light in a quarter of the Athenian Acropolis during the excavations of theMetropolitan Railway (Poupaki 2016, fig. 12). Other parallels are from Thasos (Nodin 2016, 32-36), Olynthus (Robinson 1930, fig. 180, 186) and Nemea (Miller 1977, plate 12c). These elliptical handstones were generally paired with rectangular or square lower grinding slabs.

The third group includes square or rectangular stones (Fig. 5), a shape that existed in the Argolid and Attica since the Bronze Age but become more frequent from the Archaic period (750-490 BC) onwards (Runnels 1981, 352-53, fig. 36-37). This group, all surface finds, consists of three lower stone fragments which either reveal active surfaces that are apparently concave in both directions (Fig. 5a, c). A third (Fig. 5b) is longitudinally concave and transversally convex, a shape suggesting that it was coupled with an overlapping upper stone (Zimmerman 1988, 725, Abb. 640, Form 1; Hamon et al. 2017, 301-06).

Rectangular reciprocal handmills (S. Duchène).
Fig. 5. Rectangular reciprocal handmills (S. Duchène).

Finally, the fourth group consists of irregularly shaped grinding stones (Fig. 6). This group contains one complete handmill and three fragments. Two other handmill fragments cannot be attributed to any of these categories due to their poor state of conservation. Figure 6d illustrates the characteristic overlapping upper stone.

Irregular shaped reciprocal handmills (S. Duchène).
Fig. 6. Irregular shaped reciprocal handmills (S. Duchène).

Small handstones

Another category of stone tools at Thorikos consists of eight small handstones that can fit into the palm of a hand (Fig. 7). They are roughly cubical, spherical, triangular or irregular in shape, and of various raw materials. They have at least one active surface and bear traces of grinding, percussion, or both, and could have had multiple purposes such as grinding, pounding, crushing and abrading.

Three originate from a controlled excavation undertaken in 2014 at the top of the Velatouri and potentially date to the Geometric (900-700 BC) or Archaic period (750-490 BC) (Fig. 7 d-f)7. These types of tools, frequent in prehistorical contexts, are also known at Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic sites such as Halieis (Kardulias & Runnels 1995, 439-440) and the Athenian Agora (Sparkes 1962, 125, plate IV.4).

Small handstones (S. Duchène).
Fig. 7. Small handstones (S. Duchène).

Hopper rubber mills

The third main category of grinding tools is that of hopper rubber mills, also known as Olynthus mills (Fig. 8). Although their origin is unclear, the oldest known example is from Athens dating between 425 and 400 BC (Runnels 1981, 122, 296; Frankel 2003, 7; Alonso & Frankel 2017, 467). This type of mill served during the Late Classical (400-323 BC) and Hellenistic (323-327 BC) periods until at least the 1st or 2nd century AD although a later use cannot be ruled out (Peacock 2013, 43-46). Hopper rubber mills comprised a characteristic upper stone bearing a cutting in the form of a hopper ending in a longitudinal slit. This feature allowed the passage of grains through the mobile stone to the upper surface of the lower stone. The form of the lower stones of this mill type are less distinctive.

This study identified seven of these fragments, notably four upper stones. As all are surface finds, their dating falls roughly into either the Classical or Hellenistic (323-327 BC) periods. The corner of one upper stone (Fig. 8a) bears a great likeness with an example from Halieis dated to 350-300 BC (Runnels 1981, 286, 341, fig. 25). The fragment is marked by sloping and slightly concave edges, a concave hopper and a rounded rim. The concentric dressing pattern is similar to certain described by Frankel (2003, fig. 8 p-r). A second fragment (Fig. 8 b) resembles one discovered in the excavation of cistern n°1 (Docter et al. 2011, 117). It has vertical edges, a straight hopper and a flat rim. A third fragment is very poorly preserved and is perhaps part of the slit of a large piece (Fig. 8c). Like the previous case, the fourth upper stone fragment appears to also be part of a slit, albeit much smaller (Fig. 8d). The three other finds are small lower stone fragments. Although they are too poorly preserved to be classified in one of the categories suggested by Frankel (2003, fig. 7), one reveals traces of dressing consisting of parallel furrows (Fig. 8 e).

Hopper-rubber mills (S. Duchène).
Fig. 8. Hopper-rubber mills (S. Duchène).

A single hourglass-shaped rotary mill

Hourglass-shaped rotary mills, with their Morgantina and later Pompeian variants, consist of a static, conical lower stone (meta), and a mobile, hourglass-shaped upper stone (catillus). The Morgantina type made its appearance in the central Mediterranean around the 4th century BC. The type presumably attained the eastern Mediterranean by the Hellenistic period (323-327 BC) (Frankel & Syon 2016, 91; Alonso & Frankel 2017, 473).

A lower stone of an hourglass type mill was unearthed in 1963 at Thorikos during the excavation of Workshop n°1 (late 5th and 4th centuries BC) where silver-rich lead ore and litharge were ground and amassed (Mussche 1998, 50-51; Rehren et al. 1999). This stone, cited by other authors (Ellis Jones 1984; Domergue et al. 1997), is 68.5 centimeters high and between 42-44 centimeters in diameter (Fig. 9). Its partially fragmented top was probably flat. Straight vertical furrows are visible along the top of its surface8. Contrary to the traditional Pompeian meta, it is massive (not hollowed) and its grinding surface is set at an angle of approximately 30°. These features suggest that it probably represents an early prototype of this mill type (Peacock 2013, 83).

Lower stone of the hourglass type mill from Washery n°1 of Thorikos. (S. Duchène).
Fig. 9. Lower stone of the hourglass type mill from Washery n°1 of Thorikos. (S. Duchène).

According to the excavator, the workshop was built at the end of the 5th century BC and was still in activity during the 4th century BC (Mussche 1998, 51). Domergue et al. (1997, 57) thus stated that it could not be later than 4th century BC, which would imply that it is probably one of the earliest examples in the Eastern Mediterranean. However, the loss of excavation journals of 1963 and the lack of any explicit mention of this find in the preliminary reports complicates assessing its stratigraphic position and, therefore, its date. A photograph from 1963 of the meta during its excavation suggests that it was not in its primary position. It in fact lay on its side in an undetermined layer (Fig. 10). Hence, a later date cannot be completely ruled out.

Washery n°1 of Thorikos as seen from the East (Thorikos Archaeological Research Project).
Fig. 10. Washery n°1 of Thorikos as seen from the East
(Thorikos Archaeological Research Project).

The materials studied so far on the whole consist mostly of fragments of reciprocal handmills and hopper rubber mills which are consistent with the typical grinding tools in the Aegean ranging from the Bronze Age to Hellenistic times. This is not surprising given the vast timeframe of human activity at Thorikos in the second part of the 1st millennium BC. It is noteworthy that two technological innovations attained Thorikos, the hopper rubber mill and the hourglass-shaped mill, with the first enjoying more success than the second. The following section will delve into the various raw materials serving to produce these tools.

Raw materials

The identification and temporary classification of the raw materials in this study stems from macroscopic (naked eye) observations of the visible characteristics of the material such as texture and colour.9 To establish rock types and probable provenance, the present author also obtained the authorisation to sample 21 finds. At the time of drafting this paper, only 14 finds could be sampled. Parallel to the archaeological sampling, the present author surveyed a series of geological outcrops along the Saronic Gulf.10 A future stage of research will consist of petrographic and chemical analyses of all the samples to determine potential provenance. The following paragraphs review the main volcanic rock types serving for each tool category.

Of the assemblage of 40 grinding tools, 33 (82.5%) were hewn of igneous rocks (Fig. 11). This prevalence is in strong contrast with the geological formations surrounding Thorikos consisting mostly of metamorphic rocks (Scheffer et al. 2016) indicating that most are imports. The igneous materials can be tentatively broken down into the following groups: grey and pink rocks with phenocrysts of feldspar, amphibole and pyroxene (Fig. 12 a-d); grey fine-grained rocks with small phenocrysts (Fig. 1 e); grey vesicular rocks (Fig. 12 f-i); aphanitic compact rocks (Fig. 13 a); beige silicified tuffs (Fig. 13 b) and white plutonic rocks (Fig. 13 c)11. Although this paper focusses on volcanic rocks, one must note the presence of several types of not yet to be determined siliciclastic and carbonate sedimentary materials (Fig. 13 d-g). Finally, one percussive tool was hewn from local marble.

Graph indicating the rock types of the grinding stones (S. Duchène).
Fig. 11. Graph indicating the rock types of the grinding stones (S. Duchène).
Raw materials: volcanic rocks (sampled) (S. Duchène).
Fig. 12. Raw materials: volcanic rocks (sampled) (S. Duchène).
Raw materials: volcanic, plutonic and sedimentary rocks (sampled and not sampled) (S. Duchène).
Fig. 13. Raw materials: volcanic, plutonic and sedimentary rocks (sampled and not sampled) (S. Duchène).

The rock types of reciprocal handmills

Most of the finds (21) of this category (87.5%) are of volcanic origin while only three are sedimentary (Fig. 14-15). The volcanic rocks can be broken down into three groups. The first consists of grey and vesicular rocks (Fig. 12F-i) while the second is characterised by grey fine-grained textures with small dark phenocrysts (Fig. 12e). The third and largest group (17) comprises grey or pink materials containing frequent phenocrysts of feldspar, amphibole and pyroxene (Fig. 12a-d). It is noteworthy that this group includes all but one oval reciprocal handmill (Fig. 15).

Graph indicating the number of grinding stones by category (S. Duchène).
Fig. 14. Graph indicating the number of grinding stones by category (S. Duchène).
Stacked graph indicating the number of reciprocal handmills by rock type and shape (S. Duchène).
Fig. 15. Stacked graph indicating the number of reciprocal handmills
by rock type and shape (S. Duchène).

The third type (Fig. 12a-d) is compatible with outcrops on the islands of Aegina, Methana and Poros in the Saronic Gulf (Fig. 1). These are sites surveyed by Runnels who sought out traces of ancient millstone quarries (Runnels 1981, 72-98). Unfortunately the scholar was not able to locate any due to modern intensive quarry work. However, based on his macroscopic observations and petrographic analyses, he identified the Saronic Gulf as the major supplier of grinding stones for the neighbouring regions from the Early Helladic (2650-2200 BC) onwards (Runnels 1981, 357, fig. 41). These volcanic rocks were even transported to the mainland in earlier times, a fact evidence by a shallow basin from the Upper Mesolithic unearthed in the Franchti Cave (Runnels 1981, 100; Stroulia 2010, 21) and by Neolithic grinding stones in the Kitsos Cave (Cohen & Runnels 1981).

The proportion of grinding stones in the Argolid and Attica hewn from volcanic raw material increased greatly during the Bronze Age. According to Runnels, this was mostly due to its availability and workability as well as the introduction of large oared ships, the need for ballast and the growth of interregional exchange networks (1985, 35-36, 38). Moreover, two discoveries offer further evidence that these grinding stones circulated within and on the fringes of the Saronic Gulf. The first is the cargo from the Dokos shipwreck which sunk towards the end of the Early Helladic II (2650-2200 BC). The presence of grinding stones among the cargo suggests bulk transport of these items at least in the Early Helladic II (Agouridis 1993). Furthermore, finds of reciprocal handmills and unworked roughouts of this rock type at Bronze Age sites on the Islet of Evraionisos in the Saronic Gulf points to a somewhat organised production and distribution of grinding stones (Kardulias et al. Sawmiller 1995, 17-18). The fact that the majority of reciprocal handmills of Thorikos appears to be of this rock type is not a surprise. The strategic position of Thorikos by the sea, with direct access to a wide bay, certainly assisted the arrival of these artefacts.

Half of the elliptical handstones, which are more characteristic of the Archaic and Classical periods, were made of other types of volcanic rocks (Fig. 15). Certain were of a grey fine-grained volcanic rock with small greenish phenocrysts (Fig. 4a-d). Two points stand out. Firstly, the present author observed this type of rock near Lazarides and Mount Oros in the central and southern part of the island of Aegina, where Runnels traced handmills dating from the 6th and the 3rd century BC (Runnels 1981, 124). Future planned petrographic and chemical analyses of samples from this area will certainly shed light on whether the latter were the source of the grinders of Thorikos. Secondly, not only the shape but also the raw material can be compared to cases elsewhere in the Argolid and Attica such as Nemea12 (Miller 1977, plate 12c) and Athens (Poupaki 2016, fig. 12). These similarities could confirm the notion advanced by Runnels of the existence of a specialised production centre near Mount Oros between the 6th and the 3rd century BC (1981, 124-25). Apart from these two fragments, a third was of a dark grey vesicular type (Fig. 12 f) that presumably comes from a source beyond the Saronic Gulf.

Two of the three fragments of rectangular lower grinding slabs are of a pink volcanic rock with the typical phenocrysts (Fig. 5 b-c; Fig. 12 C-d) similar to those in the Saronic Gulf. The third (Fig. 5 a) is a coarse-grained sedimentary rock of unknown provenance (Fig. 13 d).

The rock types of small handstones

This category currently reveals the greatest variety of raw materials (Fig. 14). This is not surprising as these tools were multifunctional and versatile. Hard, compact rocks were preferred for percussive tasks (Fig. 7 F; Fig. 13 a). This category also includes implements probably recycled from reciprocal handmills such as those illustrated in Figure 7b made of pink volcanic rock (fig. 12 c-d).

The rock types of hopper rubber mills

All except one (Fig. 8 a) hopper rubber fragments were hewn from a dark grey vesicular volcanic rock similar to the mills of Figure 12 g-i. It is a type of rock with may outcrops around the Aegean. The earlier research cited in the introduction of this paper suggests that several hopper rubber mills found in the Aegean made of dark vesicular volcanic rock come from Nisyros (Fig. 1) (Williams-Thorpe & Thorpe 1993; Katerinopoulos et al. 2016). It is compelling that Strabo reports that this island in Antiquity was already a centre of millstone production (Geography, 10.5.16). His narrative is bolstered by the discovery of the late 4th century BC shipwreck of Kyrenia with a cargo of 29 standardised hopper rubber mills (15 upper and 14 lower stones) thought to have been procured on the island (Runnels 1981, 125). More recently, a hopper rubber mill study of the site of Kos by A. Katerinopoulos, G. Kokkorou-Alevras, K. Mavrogonatos and E. Poupaki suggests that this mill was also produced on Nisyros (Katerinopoulos et al. 2016). Although this provenance has yet to be confirmed by petrographic and chemical analyses, Nisyros appears to be a good candidate.

Hopper rubber mills were also produced elsewhere along the South Aegean Volcanic Arc at, for example, Santorini and Kimolos (Williams-Thorpe & Thorpe 1993, 270), and elsewhere in the Saronic Gulf. The existence of a production centre in the latter area was already suggested by the hopper rubber finds at Halieis (Kardulias & Runnels 1995, 121) and Athens (Poupaki 2016, 19, fig. 22). The discovery at Thorikos of one example (Fig. 8a) of grey volcanic rock with phenocrysts of feldspar, and amphibole or pyroxene (Fig. 12a-b) further supports this argument. It is noteworthy that this case likewise presents a different morphology compared to the fragments made of dark vesicular lava. It is characterised by sloping and slightly concave edges, a concave hopper and a rounded rim.

The rock type of an hourglass-shaped mill

The rock type of the conical lower stone discovered in washery n°1 is unusual and differs greatly from the other grinding tools of Thorikos. Its colour ranges from yellow to beige, appearing almost glassy, and contains large inclusions (Fig. 13 b). Although only petrographic and geochemical analysis can confirm the rock type, it perhaps could be characterised as a silicified tuff containing fragments of ignimbrite.

At this stage it is not possible to offer a potential source for this mill. However, since this type is relatively uncommon in this part of the Mediterranean, it is plausible it came from a remote source, possibly beyond the Southern Aegean. Hopefully, ongoing petrographic and chemical determinations will narrow down the range of potential sources.


The current study presents the preliminary morphological and macroscopic rock type findings concerning 40 stone tools from the site of Thorikos (SE Attica). The largest category consists of reciprocal handmills which tend to be oval, elliptical or rectangular depending on the period (Bronze Age to Classical). This paper also focuses on eight small handstones of various shape, seven fragments of Classical or Hellenistic hopper rubber mills and one lower stone of an hourglass-shaped mill.

Although little can securely be inferred as to the provenance of these stones due to the preliminary nature of the findings, certain observations can be made as to the use of the raw materials based on their shapes and chronological period. Oval stones, more representative of the period from the Bronze Age to Archaic times, appear to originate from the Saronic Gulf, particularly the islands of Aegina or Poros. It is possible to see them as products of a regional or interregional maritime circulation of goods, potentially ballast (Runnels 1985, 38). The raw materials serving to fashion the elliptical stones, characteristic from Archaic to Classical times, although tending towards more variety, but still appear also to mostly have been procured in the Saronic Gulf. Two elliptical handstones at Thorikos appear to bolster the existence of a specialised production centre near Lazarides and Mount Oros on the Island of Aegina (Runnels 1981, 124-125).

From approximately the 5th century BC onwards, possibly slightly later, certain of the new mills spreading across the Mediterranean attained Thorikos. These consist of hopper rubber mills and hourglass-shaped lower stone unearthed in Workshop n°1. These new forms offered more variety in the use of raw materials, which from then on appear to have been procured from more distant sources. While the hopper rubber mills perhaps came from Nisyros or another volcanic outcrops such as those on the Islands of Santorini or Kimolos, it cannot be excluded that the hourglass model came from beyond the Aegean.

These preliminary observations as to provenance now require testing and corroboration by petrographic and geochemical analyses. These initial observations also need to be confronted with the results of the study of the remaining elements of the assemblage. The findings of this ongoing study will possibly confirm the conclusions of Williams-Thorpe and Thorpe who noted that the millstone exchange network became more intricate and wide-ranging from the Archaic period (750-490 BC) onwards.


I am grateful to the Ephorate of Antiquities of East Attica for allowing me to study and publish the material, and to the Archaeological Museum of Lavrio and its staff for welcoming me and making the material available. I am likewise thankful to the Belgian School of Archaeology at Athens, and especially its deputy director Prof. Dr. Panagiotis Iossif, for the administrative support. I thank Prof. Roald Docter, my supervisor, and the director of the Thorikos Archaeological Research Project, as well as Prof. Johannes Bergemann, Dr. Floris van den Eijnde, Dr. Sylviane Déderix and Prof. Denis Morin for access to the materials. Finally, I warmly recognize Dr. Eirene Poupaki, Dr. Konstantinos Mavrogonatos and Guy Dierkens for their invaluable assistance. The study was conducted in the framework of my PhD thesis funded by the Scientific Research Fonds (BOF) of Ghent University (2017-2021).


  • Agouridis, C. (1993): “Οι μυλόλιθοι από το πρωτοελλαδικό Φορτίο του Δοκού,” Ενάλια 5, 1-2, 20-25.
  • Alonso, N. and Frankel, R. (2017): “A Survey of Ancient Grain Milling Systems in the Mediterranean”, in: Buchsenschutz, O., Lepareux-Couturier, S. & Fronteau, G., dir., Les meules du Néolithique à l’époque médiévale: technique, culture, diffusion. Actes du 2e colloque du Groupe Meule, Reims, du 15 au 17 mai 2014, Revue Archéologique de l’Est (RAE), Dijon, 461-478.
  • Antonelli, F., Bernardini, F., Capedri, S., Lazzarini, L. and Montagnari Kokelj, E. (2004): “Archaeometric study of protohistoric grinding tools of volcanic rocks found in the Karst (Italy-Slovenia) and Istria (Croatia)”, Archaeometry, 46, 4, 537-552.
  • Antonelli, F., Columbu, S., de Vos Raaijmakers, M. and Andreoli, M. (2014): “An archaeometric contribution to the study of ancient millstones from the Mulargia area (Sardinia, Italy) through new analytical data on volcanic raw material and archaeological items from Hellenistic and Roman North Africa”, Journal of Archaeological Science, 50, 243-261.
  • Antonelli, F. and Lazzarini, L. (2010): “Mediterranean trade of the most widespread Roman volcanic millstones from Italy and petrochemical markers of their raw materials”, Journal of Archaeological Science, 37, 9, 2081-2092.
  • Antonelli, F. and Lazzarini, L. (2012): “The first archaeometric characterization of Roman millstones found in the Aquileaia archaeological site (Udine, Italy)”, Archaeometry, 54, 1, 1-17.
  • Antonelli, F., Lazzarini, L. and Luni, M. (2005): “Preliminary study on the import of lavic millstones in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica (Libya)”, Journal of Cultural Heritage, 6, 2, 137-145.
  • Antonelli, F., Nappi, G. and Lazzarini, L. (2001): “Roman Millstones from Orvieto (Italy): Petrographic and Geochemical Data for a New Archaeometric Contribution”, Archaeometry 43, 2, 167-189.
  • Beller, J. A., Greenfield, H. J., Shai, I. and Maeir, A. M. (2016): “The life-history of basalt ground stone tools from early urban domestic contexts: A chronicle from the EBA III of Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel”, Journal of Lithic Studies, 3, 3, 31.
  • Bingen, J. (1967): “L’établissement du IXesiècle et les nécropoles du secteur ouest 4”, in: Mussche, H. F., Bingen, J., De Geyter, J., Donnay, G. & Hackens, T., dir., Thorikos 1964. Rapport préliminaire sur la deuxième campagne de fouilles. Voorlopig verslag over de tweede opgravingscampagne, Comité des Fouilles Belges en Grèce/Comité voor Belgische Opgravingen in Griekenland, Bruxelles/Brussel, 25-46.
  • Bingen, J. (1967): “L’établissement géométrique et la nécropole ouest”, in: Mussche, H., J. Bingen, J., Servais, J., De Geyter, J., Hackens, T., Spitaels, P. & Gautier, A., dir., Thorikos 1965. Rapport préliminaire sur la troisième campagne de fouilles. Voorlopig verslag over derde opgravingscampagne, Comité des Fouilles Belges en Grèce/Comité voor Belgische Opgravingen in Griekenland, Bruxelles/Brussel, 31-56.
  • Bingen. J. (1968): “La nécropole ouest 4”, in: Mussche, H, Bingen, J., Servais, J., Paepe, R. & Hackens, T., dir., Thorikos 1963. Rapport préliminaire sur la première campagne de fouilles. Voorlopig verslag over eerste opgravingscampagne, Comité des Fouilles Belges en Grèce/Comité voor Belgische Opgravingen in Griekenland, Bruxelles/Brussel, 59-86.
  • Bingen. J. (1969): “Les établissements géométriques et la nécropole ouest”, in: Mussche, H., Bingen, J., Servais, J., Paepe, R. & Donnay, G., dir., Thorikos 1966/1967. Rapport préliminaire sur la quatrième campagne de fouilles. Voorlopig verslag over vierde opgravingscampagne, Comité des Fouilles Belges en Grèce/Comité voor Belgische Opgravingen in Griekenland, Bruxelles/Brussel, 70-120.
  • Bingen. J. (1971): “Inscriptions”, in: Mussche, H., Bingen, J., Servais, J., Paepe, R., Bussers, H. & Gasche, H., dir., Thorikos 1968. Rapport préliminaire sur la cinquième campagne de fouilles. Voorlopig verslag over vijfde opgravingscampagne, Comité des Fouilles Belges en Grèce/Comité voor Belgische Opgravingen in Griekenland, Gent, 149-162.
  • Bingen, J. (1984): “La nécropole géométrique ouest 4 (1972 et 1976)”, in: Mussche, H., Bingen, J., Servais, J. & Spitaels, P., dir., Thorikos VIII 1972/1976. Rapport préliminaire sur les 9e, 10e, 11e 12e campagnes de fouilles. Voorlopig verslag over de 9e, 10e, 11e en 12e opgravingscampagnes, Comité des Fouilles Belges en Grèce/Comité voor Belgische Opgravingen in Griekenland, Gent, 72-150.
  • Buffone, L., Lorenzoni, S., Pallara, M. and Zanettin, E. (2003): “The Millstones of Ancient Pompei: A petro-archaeometric study”, European Journal of Mineralogy, 15, 1, 207-215.
  • Cohen, R. and Runnels, C.N. (1981): “The Source of the Kitsos Millstones”, in: Lambert, N., dir., La grotte préhistorique de Kitsos (Attique). Missions 1968-1978. L’occupation néolithique, les vestiges des temps paléolithiques, de l’antiquité et de l’histoire récente. Tome I, Editions ADPF- École Française d’Athènes, Paris, 233-239.
  • Di Bella, M., Mazzoleni, P., Russo, S., Sabatino, G., Tigano, G. and Tripodo, A. (2016): “Archaeometric characterization of Roman volcanic millstones from Messina territory (Sicily, Italy)”, Periodico di Mineralogia, 85, 1, 69-81.
  • Di Bella, M., Italiano, F., Martinelli, M.C., Mazzoleni, P., Quartieri, S., Tigano, G., Tripodo, A. and Sabatino, G. (2018): “Archeometric characterization of prehistoric grindstones from Milazzo Bronze Age settlement (Sicily, Italy)”, Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 10, 7, 1571-1583.
  • Docter, R., Monsieur, P., Nazou, M., van de Put, W. and Van Gelder, K. (2010): “Thorikos: A Picture in Pottery”, in: Iossif, P., dir., ‘All that glitters…’ The Belgian contribution to Greek Numismatics, Belgian School at Athens, Athens, 42-49.
  • Docter, R., Monsieur, P. and van de Put, W. (2011): “Late Archaic to Late Antique Finds from Cistern No. 1 at Thorikos (2010 Campaign)”, in: Docter, R., dir., Thorikos 10. Reports and Studies, Department of Archaeology, Ghent University, Ghent, 75-128.
  • Domergue, C., Cauuet, B., Jarrier, B., Landes, C., Morasz, J.-G., Oliva, P., Pulou, R. and Tollon, F. (1997): “Les moulins rotatifs dans les mines et les centres métallurgiques antiques”, in: Meeks, D. & Garcia, D., dir., Techniques et économie antiques et médiévales: le temps de l’innovation. Colloque international (C.N.R.S.). Aix-en-Provence 21-23 Mai 1996, Paris, 48-61.
  • Donner, M. and Marzoli, C. (1994): “La macinazione. Evoluzione delle tecniche e degli strumenti”, in: de Rachewitz, S., Dal Ri, L. & Marzoli, C., dir., Il grano e le macine. La macinazione di cereali in alto Adige dall’Antichità al Medioevo, Museo Provinciale di Castel Tirolo, Tirolo, 73-98.
  • Duchène, S. (forthcoming): “A Byzantine rotary hand mill in Thorikos”, in: Hulek, F. & Lohmann, H., dir., Laurion – Geology, Archaeology and Archaeometry of an Ancient Mining Landscape. Papers Presented on the International Conference ‘Ari and the Laurion from Prehistoric to Modern Times,’ Bochum, November 1st–3rd 2019 – ΔιεθνέςΣυνέδριο “To ΑρίκαιηΛαυρεωτικήαποτηνπροϊστoρικήεποχήεωςσήμερα,” Bochum 1η–3ηΝοεμβρίο 2019, Beih. Der Anschnitt, Bochum.
  • Elliott, C., Xenophontos, C. and Malpas, J.G. (1986): “Petrographic and Mineral Analyses used in Tracing the Provenance of Late Bronze Age and Roman basalt Artefacts from Cyprus”, Report of the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus, 80-96.
  • Ellis Jones, J. (1984): “Ancient Athenian Silver Mines, Dressing Floors and Smelting Sites”, Journal of Historical Metallurgy, 18, 65-81.
  • Frankel, R. (2003): “The Olynthus Mill, its Origin, and Diffusion: Typology and Distribution”, American Journal of Archaeology, 107(1), 2003, 1-21.
  • Frankel, R. and Syon, D. (2016): “Mills and Querns”, in: Syon, D., dir., Gamla III. The Shmarya Gutmann Excavations 1976-1989. Finds and Studies. Part 2, IAA Reports 59, Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem, 85-96.
  • Gimeno-Torrente, D., Aulinas, M., Fernandez-Turiel, J. L., Puges, M. and Novembre, D. (2009): “Archaeometric evidence of trade of leucite-bearing volcanic-made Roman mills of Pompeian style in NE Hispania (Spain)”, Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta, 73, 13, A437.
  • Gluhak, T. M. and Rosenberg, D. (2018): “Back to the Source – Geochemical Data from Israel for the Provenance Analyses of Basaltic Rock Artefacts and their Implications on Previous and Future Studies”, Archaeometry, 60, 6, 1153-1169.
  • Gluhak, T. M. and Schwall, C. (2015): “Provenance Analyses of the Volcanic Rock Grinding Stones from the Greek Colony of Selinunte, Sicily (Italy) – Constraints and Possibilities”, Archaeometry, 57, 2, 246-268.
  • Graefe, J. (2013): “Mahlsteine: Funktion, Fertigung und Verbreitung”, Archäologische Informationen, 32/1&2, 75-81.
  • Hürlimann, F. (1965): “Neolithische Handmühlen von einer Ufersiedlung am Greifensee”, Jahrbuch der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Urgeschichte, 52, 72-86.
  • Hamon, C., Jaccottey, L., Monchablon, C., Cousseran-Néré, S., Donnart, K., Duda, T., Gilson, J.-L. and Milleville, A. (2017): “Les molettes débordantes du Néolithique: définition et premier état des lieux”, in: Buchsenschutz, O., Lepareux-Couturier, S. & Fronteau, G., dir., Les meules du Néolithique à l’époque médiévale: technique, culture, diffusion. Actes du 2ème colloque du Groupe Meule, Reims, du 15 au 17 mai 2014, Revue Archéologique de l’Est (RAE), Dijon, 301-316.
  • Kardulias, P.N., Gregory, T. E. and Sawmiller, J. (1995): “Bronze Age and Late Antique Exploitation of an Islet in the Saronic Gulf Greece”, Journal of Field Archaeology, 22, 1, 3-21.
  • Kardulias, P.N. and Runnels, C. (1995): “The Lithic Artifacts: Flaked Stone and Other Nonflaked Lithics”, in: Runnels, C., Pullen, D. & Langdon, S. dir., Artifact and Assemblage. The Finds from a Regional Survey of the Southern Argolid, Greece. Volume I. The Prehistoric and Early Iron Age Pottery and the Lithic Artifacts, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 74-139.
  • Katerinopoulos, A., Kokkorou-Alevras, G., Mavrogonatos, K. & Poupaki, E. (2016): “Volcanic Millstones from Ancient Halasarna, Kos Island. Mineralogy, Geochemistry and Comparison of Archaeological Samples to Rock Samples from Ancient Quarries on Kos and Nisyros, Dodecanese, Greece”, HEROM, 5, 2, 161-196.
  • Lepareux-Couturier, S. (2014): “Complex dressing patterns on grinding surfaces of rotary querns and millstones from Antiquity in the Paris Basin, France: state of research and perspectives”, AmS-Skrifter, 24, 149-158.
  • Mexi, M. (2009): “Αρχαιομετρικές έρευνες σε λίθινα ευρήματα από τον οικισμό της Πρώιμης Εποχής του Χαλκού στο Κορωπί”, in: Vassilipoulou, V. & Katsarou-Tzeveleki, S. dir., From Mesogeia to Argosaronikos. B’ Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities. Research of a Decade, 1994-2003. Proceedings of Conference, Athens, December 18-20, 2003, Municipality of Markopoulo of Mesogeia, Markopoulo of Mesogeia, 249-258.
  • Miller, S. G. (1977): “Excavations at Nemea, 1976”, Hesperia, 46, 1, 1-26.
  • Mortier, S. (2011): “Late Classical and Early Hellenistic Finds from Cistern No. 1 at Thorikos”, in: Docter, R., dir., Thorikos 10. Reports and Studies, Department of Archaeology, Ghent University, Ghent, 129-140.
  • Mussche, H. (1990): “Insula 3. The Workshop, House n°3, House n°4, the Shops, the Western Terrace”, in: Mussche, H., Bingen, J., Ellis Jones, J. & Waelkens, M., dir., Thorikos IX 1977/1982. Rapport préliminaire sur les 13e, 14e, 15e et 16e campagnes de fouilles. Voorlopig verslag over de 13e, 14e, 15e en 16e opgravigscampagnes, Comité des Fouilles Belges en Grèce/Comité voor Belgische Opgravingen in Griekenland, Gent, 12-62.
  • Mussche, H. (1998): Thorikos. A Mining Town in Ancient Attica. Fouilles de Thorikos II. Opgravingen van Thorikos II, Belgian Archaeological School in Greece, Gent.
  • Nodin, S. (2016): Outillage lithique dans la minéralurgie grecque, unpublished Master dissertation, Université Charles De Gaulle – Lille3, Lille.
  • Peacock, D. (1980): “The Roman Millstone Trade: A Petrological Sketch”, World Archaeology, 12, 1, 43-53.
  • Peacock, D. (2013): The Stone of Life, The Archaeology of Querns, Mills and Flour Production in Europe up to c. AD 500, The Highfield Press, Southampton.
  • Poupaki, E. (2016): “Hand mills from the vicinity of the Athenian Acropolis. Finds from Athens Metropolitan Railway Excavations”, Eulimene, 15-16 (2014-2015), 11-53.
  • Rehren, T., Vanhove, D., Mussche, H. and Oikonomakou, M. (1999): “Litharge from Laurion: A Medical and Metallurgical Commodity from South Attika”, Antiquité Classique, 68, 1999, 299-308.
  • Renzulli, A., Santi, P., Nappi, G., Luni, M. and Vitali, D. (2002): “Provenance and trade of volcanic rock millstones from Etruscan-Celtic and Roman archaeological sites in central Italy”, European Journal of Mineralogy, 14, 1, 175-183.
  • Renzulli, A., Santi, P., Gambin, T. and Serrano, P.B. (2019): “Pantelleria Island as a centre of production for the Archaic Phoenician trade in basaltic millstones: New evidence recovered and sampled from a shipwreck off Gozo (Malta) and a terrestrial site at Cádiz (Spain)”, Journal of Archaeological Science Reports, 24, January, 338-349.
  • Risch, R. (2008): “Grain processing technologies and economic organisation: a case study from the south-east of the Iberian Peninsula during the Copper Age”, The Arkeotek Journal, 2(2), 1-47.
  • Robinson, D.M. (1930): Excavations at Olynthus II. Architecture and Sculpture: Houses and Other Buildings, The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore.
  • Runnels, C. (1981): A Diachronic Study and Economic Analysis of Millstones from the Argolid, Greece, University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor.
  • Runnels, C. (1985): “Trade and Demand for Millstones in Southern Greece in the Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age”, in: Knapp, B. & Stech, T., dir., Production and Prehistoric Exchange. The Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean, Monographs in Archaeology 25, UCLA Institute of Archaeology, Los Angeles, 30-43.
  • Santi, P., Renzulli, A. and Bell, M., (2015): “The volcanic millstones from the archaeological site of Morgantina (Sicily): Provenance and evolution of the milling techniques in the Mediterranean area”, Archaeometry, 57, 5, 803-821.
  • Santi, P., Renzulli, A. and Gullo, R. (2013): “Archaeometric study of the hopper-rubber and rotary Morgantina-type volcanic millstones of the Greek and Roman periods found in the Aeolian archipelago (southern Italy)”, European Journal of Mineralogy, 25, 1, 39-52.
  • Scheffer, C., Vanderhaeghe, O., Lanari, P., Tarantola, A., Ponthus, L., Photiades, A. and France, L. (2016): “Syn- to post-orogenic exhumation of metamorphic nappes: Structure and thermobarometry of the western Attic-Cycladic metamorphic complex (Lavrion, Greece)”, Journal of Geodynamics, 96, 174-193.
  • Sparkes, B. A. (1962): “The Greek Kitchen”, The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 82, 121-137.
  • Stal, C., Deruyck, A., De Wulf, A. and Docter, R. (2018): “Site Map”, in: Docter, R. & Webster, M., dir., Exploring Thorikos, Department of Archaeology, Ghent University, Ghent, 6-7.
  • Strabo (1961). The Geography of Strabo, V. Translated by H. L. Jones. London: William Heinemann Ltd.
  • Stroulia, A. (2010): Flexible Stones. Ground Stone Tools From Franchti Cave, Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
  • Stroulia, A., Dubreuil, L., Robitaille, J. and Nelson, K. (2017): “Salt, Sand, and Saddles: Exploring an Intriguing Work Face Configuration among Grinding Tools”, Ethnoarchaeology, 9, 2, 119-145.
  • Van den Eijnde, F., Brüsewitz, A., Déderix, S. and Docter, R. (2018): “The Thorikos Survey Project (TSP)”, in: Docter, R. & Webster, M., dir., Exploring Thorikos, Department of Archaeology, Ghent University, Ghent, 19-20.
  • Van Liefferinge, K., Docter, R., Pieters, T., van den Eijnde, F. (2011): “The excavation of Cistern no.1 at Thorikos”, in: Docter, R., dir., Thorikos 10. Reports and Studies, Department of Archaeology, Ghent University, Ghent, 57-74.
  • Watts, B. G., Bennett, M. E., Kopp, O. C. and Mattingly, G. L. (2004): “Geochemistry and Petrography of Basalt Grindstones from the Karak Plateau, Central Jordan”, Geoarchaeology, 19, 1, 2004, 47-69.
  • Williams-Thorpe, O. (1988): “Provenancing and Archaeology of Roman Millstones from the Mediterranean Area”, Journal of Archaeological Science, 15, 253-305.
  • Williams-Thorpe, O., Thorpe, R.S., Elliott, C. and Xenophontos, C. (1991): “Archaeology, Geochemistry, and Trade of Igneous Rock Millstones in Cyprus During the Late Bronze Age to Roman Periods”, Geoarchaeology, 6, 1, 27-60.
  • Williams-Thorpe, O. and Thorpe, R.S. (1989): “Provenancing and Archaeology of Roman Millstones from Sardinia (Italy)”, Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 8, 1, 89-117.
  • Williams-Thorpe, O. and Thorpe, R.S. (1990): “Millstone provenancing used in tracing the route of a fourth-century BC greek merchant ship”, Archaeometry, 32, 2, 1990, 115-137.
  • Williams-Thorpe, O. and Thorpe, R.S. (1993): “Geochemistry and Trade of Eastern Mediterranean Millstones from the Neolithic to Roman Periods”, Journal of Archaeological Science, 20, 3, 263-320.
  • Xenophontos, C., Elliott, C. and Malpas, J.G. (1988): “Major and Trace-Element Geochemistry used in Tracing the Provenance of Late-Bronze Age and Roman Basalt Artefacts from Cyprus”, Levant XX, 169-183.
  • Zimmerman, A. (1988): “Steine”, in: Boelicke, U., von Brandt, D., Lüning, J., Stehli, P. & Zimmerman, A., dir., Der bandkeramische Siedlungsplatz Langweiler 8, Gemeinde Aldenhoven, Kreis Düren, Rheinland-Verlag, Köln, 569-787.

Reciprocal handmills (Fig. 3-6)

FigureInventory NumberUpper/LowerOutlineRaw Material CategoryPeriodArchaeological intervention
*TP2013.1739LowerUndeterminedI.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
*TP2014.0241LowerUndeterminedI.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Archaic, Classical?Excavation (Acropolis 2014)
*TP2014.3058LowerUndeterminedIII.4 (Fig.13.g)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
3.aTP1971.0002LowerOvalIII.2. (Fig. 12.e)GeometricExcavation (West Necropole)
3.bTP2013.0531LowerOval?I.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
3.cTP2014.2768LowerOval?I.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
3.dTP2013.2600LowerOval?I.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
3.eTP2014.3466UpperOval?I.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
3.fTP1969.0007UndeterminedOvalI.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)ArchaicExcavation (Industrial Quarter)
3.gTP2013.0752UndeterminedOval?I.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
3.hTP2012.0864UndeterminedOval?I.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
4.aTP1968.0011UpperEllipticalI.3 (Fig. 12.e)ClassicalExcavation (Industrial Quarter)
4.bTP2014.1800UpperEllipticalI.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
4.cTP2012.1769UpperEllipticalI.4 (Fig. 12.f)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
4.dTP2014.2977UpperEllipticalI.3 (Fig. 12.e)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
4.eTP2014.1828UpperElliptical?I.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
4.fTP2013.2585UpperElliptical?I.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
5.aTP2014.0242LowerRectangular?III.1 (Fig. 13.d)Archaic, Classical?Excavation (Acropolis 2014)
5.bTP2014.2446LowerRectangular?I.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
5.cTP2013.2616LowerRectangular?I.2 (Fig. 12.c-d)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
6.a/LowerIrregularI.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
6.bTP2013.0536UpperIrregularI.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
6.cTP2012.2541UpperIrregularI.5 (Fig. 12.i)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
6.dTP2014.0239UpperIrregularI.2 (Fig. 12.c-d)TopsoilExcavation (Acropolis 2014)
* Not illustrated
/ No inventory number

Small handstones (Fig.  7)

FigureInventory NumberMain useRaw Material CategoryPeriodArchaeological intervention
7.aTP2014.2536GrindingIII.1 (Fig. 13.d)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
7.bTP2012.2483GrindingI.2 (Fig. 12.c-d)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
7.cTP2013.3283Percussion and grindingI.2 (Fig. 12.c-d)Surface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
7.dTP2014.0329Percussion and grindingII.1-2 (Fig. 13.c)Geometric, Archaic ?Excavation (Acropolis 2014)
7.eTP2014.0330PercussionIII.3 (Fig. 13.f)Geometric, Archaic ?Excavation (Acropolis 2014)
7.fTP2014.0331PercussionI.6 (Fig. 13.a)Geometric, Archaic ?Excavation (Acropolis 2014)
7.gTP2014.2963Percussion and grindingLocal marbleSurface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
7.hTP2013.2599AbrasionUndeterminedSurface findField-walking survey (2012-2015)
* Not illustrated

Hopper-rubber mills (Fig. 8)

FiguresInventory NumberUpper/LowerRaw Material CategoryPeriodArchaeological intervention
*TP2012.1571LowerI.5 (Fig. 12.g-h)Classical, HellenisticField-walking survey (2012-2015)
*TP2012.1572LowerI.5 (Fig. 12.g-h)Classical, HellenisticField-walking survey (2012-2015)
8.aTP2012.0829UpperI.1 (Fig. 12.a-b)350-300 B.C.E?Field-walking survey (2012-2015)
8.bTP2013.3662UpperI.5 (Fig. 12.g-h)Classical, HellenisticField-walking survey (2012-2015)
8.cTP2012.0614UpperI.5 (Fig. 12.g-h)Classical, HellenisticField-walking survey (2012-2015)
8.dTP2012.1574UpperI.5 (Fig. 12.g-h)Classical, HellenisticField-walking survey (2012-2015)
8.eTP2012.1573LowerI.5 (Fig. 12.g-h)Classical, HellenisticField-walking survey (2012-2015)
* Not illustrated

Hourglass-shaped mill (Fig. 9)

FigureInventory NumberUpper/LowerRaw Material CategoryPeriodArchaeological intervention
9/Lower (meta)I.7 (Fig. 14b)Classical?Excavation Washery 1 (1963)
/ No inventory number

Table. 1. List of data related to the different grinding stones examined in this study.


  1. Antonelli et al. 2001; Renzulli et al. 2002; Buffone et al. 2003; Antonelli et al. 2004; Antonelli et al. 2005; Gimeno-Torrente et al. 2009; Antonelli & Lazzarini 2010; Antonelli & Lazzarini 2012; Santi et al. 2013; Antonelli et al. 2014, Gluhak & Schwall 2015; Santi et al. 2015; Di Bella et al. 2016; Di Bella et al.2018; Renzulli et al. 2019.
  2. Universiteit Utrecht, Liège Université, Université Catholique de Louvain, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Université de Lorraine, Ionian University, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Uppsala Universitet, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and Universität Heidelberg.
  3. The results of the surface survey will be discussed in the forthcoming Thorikos 12: Report and Studies.
  4. Fragments of a rotary handmill were found in Thorikos during the excavation of Cistern 1 (Docter et al. 2011; Van Liefferinge et al. 2011; Mortier 2011). These fragments will be the subject of a separate publication (Duchène forthcoming).
  5. Runnels applied an index obtained by dividing the width by the length to differentiate between oval and elliptical. A value of 0.55 or more equates with an oval contour, whereas a value inferior to 0.55 equates with the elliptical form (Runnels 1981, 329). The same factor served for the study of the present author.
  6. The stone measures 40 cm in length, 12.4 cm in width, and 5 cm in thickness.
  7. The results of this excavation will be published by K. Van Liefferinge, R. Docter and F. van den Eijnde.
  8. The pattern is comparable to the type 4 dressing o Roman rotary querns according to S. Lepareux-Couturier (2011, fig. 11).
  9. I warmly thank Dr. Konstantinos Mavrogonatos for his assistance in these determinations. I am, nonetheless, solely responsible for any error in this article.
  10. The sampling of the outcrops of Aegina was carried out with the help of Dr. Eirene Poupaki and M.A. Effie Rigatou.
  11. The two rotary mill fragments are of white vesicular rock (Duchène forthcoming).
  12. Object ST341 showcased in the Archaeological Museum of Nemea is dated to around 430 BC.
ISBN html : 978-2-35613-540-7
Chapitre de livre
EAN html : 9782356135407
ISBN html : 978-2-35613-540-7
ISBN pdf : 978-2-35613-542-1
ISSN : 2741-1508
20 p.
Code CLIL : 4117
licence CC by SA

Comment citer

Duchène, Sophie, “Provenancing the grinding stones of Thorikos (Attica, Greece). Preliminary observations”, in : Alonso, Natàlia, Anderson, T. J., Jaccottey, Luc,Querns and Mills in Mediterranean Antiquity. Tradition and Innovation during the First Millennium BC, Pessac, Ausonius Éditions, collection DAN@ 12, 2023, 13-32, [en ligne] https://una-editions.fr/provenancing-grinding-stones-of-thorikos/ [consulté le 22/12/2023]
Illustration de couverture • • Dessin d'Aurora Pulido Villegas (www.dboreal.com) ; Quatrième : La Bastida de les Alcusses, 1928 (avec l'aimable autorisation du Museu de Prehistòria de València).
Retour en haut
Aller au contenu principal