The ancient marble quarry at Apollonas

Close to the small village of Apóllonas, at the northern tip of Naxos, lies the island’s main antique marble quarry. It is located on a small hill to the southwest of the village that consists of very good, white, fine-grained marble from which many statues have been made. One of these statues lies unfinished in the quarry, the gigantic Kouros.

im antiken Steinbruch bei Apollonas
view from the quarry towards Apóllonas

The quarry of Apóllonas was probably in use as far back as the Mycenaean period, and marble was mined here for many centuries. It may be the oldest marble quarry in Greece. Mineralogical research has revealed that numerous statues come from this quarry, not only those found on Naxos, but also in Delos, the Acropolis of Athens and even in Delphi. Certainly material from this quarry has been used for the temples on Naxos and Delos. Especially in the Archaic period large quantities of marble must have been mined here. The tyrant Lygdamis (from 538 BC) ensured that the quarry was nationalized; however, after that its importance soon diminished as, with the development of technology, the underground quarries in Paros and Pendelis near Athens could be exploited more effectively, whose marble was finer and thus more suitable for sculpturing.

im antiken Steinbruch bei Apollonas
The whole hill is covered with big boulders of good quality marble.

Here a block has been removed for instance for a statue.

Of particular interest is a rock just above the Kouros (to be reached unfortunately only by climbing over a fence and many thorny bushes). Here one can see clearly how the ancient masters removed larger blocks of marble.

From this rock, the ancient builders removed several large marble blocks.

To remove a block, first a long line of deep, narrow holes were drilled in its “back” into the rock. Then from the front, that is the “free” side, at the lower edge wedges were driven into the marble until the block broke off as a whole.

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