Close to the village of Mélanes lies a hill with marble of high quality that has been quarried since antiquity. The marble was used for the construction of buildings as well as for statues. Not too far away, marble is still being quarried today on a large scale. The area of Mélanes was inhabited since the Bronze Age (3rd millennium BC), and its marble may have been used since then. Right next to the area of the antique marble quarry an excavated Sanctuary of the springs and the protector gods of the quarry can be visited.
The peak time for the use of the quarry was during the 7th and 6th centuries BC (archaic period), but marble was also mined during the rest of antiquity. This quarry is one of the oldest in Greece. The island of Naxos was one of the first places in Greece to develop monumental marble sculpturing. From here techniques of marble processing and temple architecture were exported to the neighboring islands and to other parts of Greece. Today the area of the ancient quarry is most known and visited for the two unfinished antique kouroi (plural of gr. Koúros = statue of a young man) that still lie in the quarry. The colossal, 9 meter high marble statue of Apollo in Delos, the largest kouros ever erected, also came from here.
View over area of the ancient quarry. One kouros lies in the middle of the picture in the small incision in the vegetation, the other to the upper left in a small brown area on the slope.
part of the ancient quarry
One can still see traces of the marble quarrying.
The Kouros has a size of over 6 meters and was probably commissioned by a major figure of the then aristocratic society, who wanted to erect a lasting monument of himself. It was probably made around 570 BC. Such statues were roughly shaped in the quarries, so as to reduce the weight but keep the possibility of damage during transport low, and then finished at their final location. The transport was achieved with wooden sledges on ramps of marble chippings. The graceful posture and the fine, “meatless” design of the body is characteristic of the Naxian marble sculptures. The Kouros was presumably left in the quarry because one leg broke during transport.
the Kouros of Mélanes