Macrolithic tools for mining and primary processing of metal ores from the site of Grotta della Monaca (Calabria, Italy)

  • Francesco Breglia Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro
  • Isabella Caricola Università degli Studi di Roma "Sapienza"
  • Felice Larocca Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro
Keywords: Italy, Calabria, Grotta della Monaca, mines, prehistory, ground stone tools

Abstract


Grotta della Monaca is a karst cave located in Calabria, the southernmost region of the Italian peninsula. About half a kilometre deep, the cavern has drawn the attention of people since the Palaeolithic period due to the abundance of metal ores within (mainly iron hydroxides but also copper carbonates). These easily reachable minerals were exploited during prehistory, especially between the late Neolithic and the early Copper Age.

Research conducted from 2000 to 2012 has allowed us to understand various aspects of ancient mining activities performed within the site and to reconstruct a basic operational chain concerning the procurement and the primary processing of such resources, from the choice of tools to the various extractive techniques, from the disposal of mining debris to the early operations of ore processing.

In this paper we focus on two categories of macrolithic tools: those used to extract minerals, and those used for their primary processing. The first group is composed of 51 artefacts divided into axes, hammers, and pickaxes with a central groove, found in the deeper areas of the cave, which represent the mining areas. Their morphological and dimensional variability indicates a significant functional diversification; furthermore, the choice of different very hard metamorphic rocks implies a high awareness in the selection of the raw materials used for making these implements. The second group includes 22 tools with different functions - mainly made of sandstone - classified as querns, grinders and crushers. They were found in an underground area adjacent to the entrance, which is characterized by large and comfortable spaces, with the widespread presence of natural light. A recent traceological study has clarified the function of such artefacts; they were used to grind mined blocks of iron hydroxides to obtain a powder. The multidisciplinary approach adopted in studying mining tools from Grotta della Monaca, including petrographic, typological and use-wear analysis, has allowed us to gain important knowledge about the general characteristics of these tools.

Author Biographies

Francesco Breglia, Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro

Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro
Gruppo di ricerca speleo-archeologica
Piazza Umberto I n. 1, 70121 Bari
Italy

Centro Regionale di Speleologia “Enzo dei Medici”
Via Lucania n. 3, 87070 Roseto Capo Spulico, Cosenza
Italy

Isabella Caricola, Università degli Studi di Roma "Sapienza"

Università degli Studi di Roma "Sapienza"
Piazzale Aldo Moro n. 5, 00185 Roma
Italy

Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Rue Victor Cousin n. 1, 75005 Paris
France

Centro Regionale di Speleologia “Enzo dei Medici”
Via Lucania n. 3, 87070 Roseto Capo Spulico, Cosenza
Italy

Felice Larocca, Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro

Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro
Gruppo di ricerca speleo-archeologica
Piazza Umberto I n. 1, 70121 Bari
Italy

Centro Regionale di Speleologia “Enzo dei Medici”
Via Lucania n. 3, 87070 Roseto Capo Spulico, Cosenza
Italy

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Published
31-Oct-2016
How to Cite
Breglia, F., Caricola, I., & Larocca, F. (2016). Macrolithic tools for mining and primary processing of metal ores from the site of Grotta della Monaca (Calabria, Italy). Journal of Lithic Studies, 3(3), 57-76. https://doi.org/10.2218/jls.v3i3.1651
Section
Papers Presented at the 1st Meeting of the Association for Ground Stone Tools Research