SCY024 : Mitsero Sykamies

The Slag Heaps

Grid reference: 509500/3877600
Cadastral plans: XXIX/52, XXIX/53
Aerial photograph: 1993, Run 177, No. 41
SIA: SIA 4 (Mitsero Mavrovounos)
Archaeometallurgy units: 2009-11, 2050-53

The slag heaps, the largest in the survey area, lie 500 m southwest of Kokkinoyia mine, where impressive remnants of the ancient mines still survive today (SIA 11); it is reasonable to assume that this is where the smelters obtained ore for their furnaces. The modern open cast mine of Kokkinopezoula with its impressive gossan lies approximately 1 km to the southeast, but according to George Constantinou (personal communication) that area had not been exploited in antiquity (the copper content of the cupreous pyrites was probably too low to be extracted with the means and technology available).

As is the case at Mitsero Kouloupakhis, the slag heaps have been quarried with bulldozers and dissected by modern dirt roads, which created vertical sections enabling us to record the stratigraphy at specific points. Other features such as such as furnace remains on the surface of the slag heaps, as well as two possible adits in its direct proximity, have also been recorded.

SCY024W-1: Western Slag Heap

The western heap has the shape of an elongated, truncated cone, its peak lying just south of the modern road that cuts through its northern edge. The top flat surface of the heap is 30.5 m from north to south and 42.0 m from east to west, while the southern base of the cone is 52.0 m long. The height is estimated to be 20 m. On the southern part of the heap there is an artificial section almost 4 m high, which reveals clearly the stratigraphy of this anthropogenic mountain of metallurgical waste. At the lower part of the section there is a substantial amount of loose material which obscures the lower layers of the slag heap.

The westernmost heap consists almost entirely of tapped slag, although there are some fragments of furnace lining (mainly slagged stones but also clay), as well as some pottery. The slag is mostly black in colour, with some examples having a bluish-black surface characteristic of manganese-rich slags. As in the case with SCY021W (Mitsero Kouloupakhis) it is interesting that the layers of the slag heap are composed of similar sized fragments of slag. For example, there are layers that consist of small or finely crushed pieces and layers that consist of medium sized fragments. Among these there are large, almost complete slag cakes, again very similar to the ones from Kouloupakhis.

Keeping in mind that this is an artificial section at a random point of the heap we can still make some general remarks on the stratigraphy. Unlike the situation at Kouloupakhis, some layers are not horizontal but slanted. This indicates that the waste material was dumped over an already formed mass of slag. On the other hand, roughly horizontal layers may indicate an effort to create a working platform where new furnaces were built and smelting continued in the same general area.

Slag samples were collected from the various strata, and ten of them were analysed by XRF. All the samples contained quite low levels of copper (below 1% in all but one sample), which is expected for slags of this period. As in the case of the slags from SIA 3, the majority of these samples were manganiferous, with one example containing 41.5 % manganese oxide. Once again, it is clear that the flux used was umber, a mineral that consists of mainly of iron oxides but also contains significant concentrations of manganese oxide.

Six samples of pottery were also collected from the stratified layers but unfortunately only one of these could be securely identified (Late Roman); the others were of unknown date. Various other pieces of pottery were collected either from the surface or from the collapsed material of the cleaned section. Again, apart from a couple of Archaic sherds and some coarse ware of unknown date, the majority of the pottery is Late Roman. This fits well with the general picture of the slag heap: its size, the size of the slag cakes, the type of furnace lining, etc., are very similar to those of Kouloupakhis, which was also Late Roman in date.