How Did They Mine in Ancient Greece?

Mining has been an essential part of human civilization since ancient times. In ancient Greece, mining was a crucial industry that provided the necessary resources for their expanding civilization.

The Greeks extracted various minerals to make tools, weapons, and buildings. This article will delve into the mining techniques used in ancient Greece.

Ancient Greek Mining Techniques

The Greeks used two main mining techniques: surface and underground mining. Surface mining was prevalent in the early stages of Greek civilization, and they used it to extract minerals found near the surface of the earth. Underground mining became more common in later years as they started extracting minerals from deeper within the earth.

Surface Mining

Surface mining involved extracting minerals from open pits or quarries. The Greeks used this technique to mine minerals like marble, limestone, and clay. They would dig shallow pits using basic tools like pickaxes and shovels.

Once they reached the desired depth, they would use wedges and hammers to break off pieces of the mineral. The workers would then load these pieces onto carts or sleds pulled by animals like donkeys or oxen.

Underground Mining

Underground mining involved digging tunnels or shafts deep into the earth to extract minerals like gold, silver, lead, copper, and iron. The Greeks used this technique extensively during their peak period.

The miners would use hand-held tools like chisels and hammers to dig tunnels into mountainsides or sink vertical shafts into the ground until they reached the mineral veins. They then extracted ore by hand using picks and shovels.

In some cases, water was a significant problem when digging underground tunnels or shafts; therefore, they had to develop techniques for draining water out of mines through channels carved into rock walls.

Mining Equipment Used in Ancient Greece

The equipment used for mining in ancient Greece was relatively basic compared to modern-day mining. The Greeks used pickaxes, shovels, chisels, hammers, and sledges as their primary tools.

They also used animal-powered carts and sleds to transport minerals from the mines to the surface. The animals were mainly donkeys or oxen.

The Role of Slaves in Ancient Greek Mining

Slaves played a significant role in ancient Greek mining. They were responsible for working in the mines, extracting minerals by hand, and transporting them to the surface.

The slave labor was crucial in keeping the mining industry profitable for the wealthy elite who owned and operated the mines.


In conclusion, mining played an essential role in ancient Greek civilization. The Greeks used both surface and underground mining techniques to extract various minerals like gold, silver, lead, copper, iron, marble, limestone, and clay.

The equipment used for mining was relatively basic compared to modern-day mining equipment. However, they still managed to extract enough minerals to sustain their growing civilization.

Lastly, slave labor played a significant role in ancient Greek mining because they were responsible for doing most of the manual work involved in extracting minerals from the earth.