Archaeological geology and geochemistry of Pentelic marble, Mount Pentelikon, Attica, Greece
Pike, Scott Harris
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Mount Pentelikon was a primary source of white marble since the early fifth century BC. The fine- to medium-grain marble was heavily utilized by the ancient Greeks and Romans for statuary, architecture and epigraphic tablets. Despite the increased sophistication of recent signature studies, the archaeologically important white marble quarries on Mount Pentelikon, Attica, Greece have eluded precise characterization.|The presented research challenges the assumption of earlier scholars that Pentelic marble is homogeneous by investigating the geochemical and stable isotopic profile of the entire Pentelic quarry area. An extensive field study was undertaken to locate, map and categorize all surviving ancient and modern quarries. Field observations were also used to construct a geologic map of the quarry area. The maps reveal that the marble quarries fall within three marble units. The survey maps were used to acquire a 610 sample reference collection representing 72 of the 162 identified quarries.|Whole-rock compositional studies were carried out by NAA on sixty-one samples representing five geographically distinct quarry groups. Discriminant, cluster and principal component analyses were performed on the data to identify any significant structure within the data. No structure was evident. Since mineralogical impurities such as aluminosilicates and oxides can cause significant random compositional variation, a suggestion for future compositional studies recommends employing ICP, which has the benefit of only measuring the carbonate fraction.|Analyses using stable isotope ratios of carbon and oxygen suggest that there are regions within the greater Pentelic quarry area that can be distinguished. Correlating the ?13C and ?18O values with the geologic map reveals that Marble Units 1 and 2 have significantly increased ?13C values. Marble Unit 3 is recognizable by having a narrow range of ?13C values and significantly higher ?18O values. The marble with the highest oxygen ratios are from three neighboring quarries on the upper slope of Marble Unit 3. The high values correspond to the isotope ratios of the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum in London. The success of the database in locating the quarries for the Parthenon sculptures attests to the importance of carrying out extensive fieldwork when undertaking quarry characterization studies.