The Aegean Sea is famous first and foremost for its crystal water and for the gorgeous islands. What is unknown is that under the calm sea and the wild landscape of the Aegean islands, there is the Greek El Dorado. Indeed, the underground of the Aegean includes 118 mines in 38 islands. The history of these mines is long and started even more than 20,000 years ago.
From the ancient times, people used these mines to make weapons and tools, to build houses and temples, or even to cure themselves! Excavations have shown that the mines in Tzines hill in Thassos island had been exploiting since 18,000 BC, making them the oldest ochre mines in Europe. As ancient writers state, ochre was used to colour the shadows in painting. According to philosopher Theophrastos, Athens was exclusively exploiting the mines of Kea island, which would give yellow and red ochre. These two mines were used from medicine to ship building, in securing the waterproof of the wooden ships.
Particularly famous were also the mines of Serifos island. In the ancient times, the locals had made a promise to give 10% of their income from the mines to the temple of Apollo. The myth says that once the locals didn't pay this amount and the god got so angry that he sank the mines of Agios Sostis. In fact, these are some of the few sunken mines in the world!
The exploitation of the Greek mines stopped in the Medieval Times and flourished again in the late 19th and early 20th century. Frequently, people were made to work under bad conditions, which led to the historical strike of the mine workers of Serifos in 1916. The Greek mines, however, have provided material to important public works worldwide, such as the Corinth Canal and the Suez Canal, whose walls were constructed with mines from Santorini, products of volcanic explosions.