Natural stones acted as an integral part of the evolution of human societies, contributing drastically to the prevalence of man on earth. During the Stone Age, man uses unprocessed or lightly processed stone to build tools and weapons, while later he explored more advance process ways and usages. In Greece, and especially in Thrace, several archaeological researches have revealed the early relationship of man with the extraction and processing of natural stones. Thus, prehistoric chert quarries are preserved in the Vrachos area of Petrota, whereas in the Makri Neolithic settlement (6th millennium BC), the supply of raw materials was made from nearby sites as well as from the island of Samothrace.
Furthermore in Thrace area a wide variety of stone artefacts of various uses reveals that since early times human population of the area had understand the significance of stone masonry. In Greece the use of natural stones as building materials begins in the 7th c. BC Sedimentary (tufas, sandstones, limestones), metamorphic (gneisses, shales, marbles) and igneous (plutonic, volcanic) rocks were used as building materials. Admirable ancient monuments of northern Greece are made of similar building materials (e.g. the tomb of King Philip the II in Vergina and the megalithic walls of the Ismara acropolis near Maroneia, Komotini).
However, the natural stone with the greatest importance both in ancient times and nowadays is marble. It began to be used between the 6th and 5th c. BC, and very quickly its usage was spread throughout the ancient world. Marble quarries were located in Attica (Penteli), as well as in the islands of Paros “Paria lithos” and Thassos, where the Alykes quarry was one of the main sources of Thassos marble from the Classical to the Byzantine ages.
In Petrota, is documented the extraction of the regional volcanic rocks since the classical era. Within a short distance of Petrota village and the quarries, there are monuments of various historical periods made of this volcanic rock. The ancient Thracian tomb at Maltepe in Mesek, Bulgaria (4th c. BC), the Petrota fort (Palaiokastro), the Mezek Castle and the bridge in Svilengrad (built in 1529) are such examples. The quarrying of this building material was carried out in small pits or underground, which were named by locals “mantenia”. Over the years, since antiquity up to the 20th century, the quarrying process appears only slightly changes. Splinters, chisels, and hammers were used as hand tools, while stepped faces characterized the quarrying pits, while the extracted rock blocks should be massive, strong, and without internal fractures.
It is well-known that the quarrying of these volcanic rocks served for many years as a lever of economic development for the citizens of Petrota. From the middle of the Ottoman period up until the middle of the 20th century, the extraction, processing and the trade of the stone was one of the main occupations of the citizens. The extracted rock blocks were used as building materials for temples and houses, as well as for the production of objects of daily use, such as millstones, wells, tap spouts, mills and mortars.
Nowadays, the quarry activity which perceives these rocks only as building materials has been seized. In the surrounding hills of the village remain the relics of these past activities, while in the center of the village the Rock Museum has collected the surviving folklore and cultural elements of the area during the recent years. However, during the last decade, on the base of extent scientific researches, it is manifested that the Petrota volcanic rocks could act again as a lever of economic growth for the region. The natural Petrota zeolite is characterized by a wide range of uses (e.g. agriculture, livestock, and medicine). Thus, the exploitation of the natural Petrota zeolite could be an economically and environmentally friendly sustainable activity. Through the absolute knowledge and respect for the local history, folklore, and cultural elements the exploitation of the zeolite could contribute to the demographic stimulation and the economic development of the region.
Representative references (in Greek)
Βαβελίδης, Μ., Μέλφος, Β., Κιουρτζόγλου, E., και Τσατσοπούλου, Π., 2003. Λατομική δραστηριότητα στην περιοχή Μεσημβρίας-Ζώνης Έβρου κατά την αρχαιότητα. Το Αρχαιολογικό Έργο στη Μακεδονία και Θράκη (ΑΕΜΘ), 15, 33-45
Μέλφος, Β., Στρατούλη, Γ., Βαβελίδης, Μ., και Ευστρατίου, Ν., 2001. Προέλευση και η διακίνηση των πρώτων υλών για την κατασκευή των λειασμένων λίθινων εργαλείων από το νεολιθικό οικισμό Μάκρης Εβρου. Αρχαιομετρικές μελέτες για την Ελληνική Προϊστορία και Αρχαιότητα. Επιστ. Επιμέλ.: Μπασιάκος Ι., Αλούπη Ε., Φακορέλλης Γ. ΕΑΕ & ΚΜΑΜ, Αθήνα, 763-778.
Μέλφος, Β., και Βαβελίδης, Μ., 2000. Η κατεργασία του λίθου και η λατομική δραστηριότητα κατά την αρχαιότητα: ίχνη λατόμευσης στη Μαρώνεια του Νομού Ροδόπης, Θεσσαλονικέων Πόλις, 2, 63-76.
Ορλάνδος, Α., 1958. Τα υλικά δομής των αρχαίων Ελλήνων. Τευχ. 2. Τα μέταλλα, το ελεφαντοστούν, τα κονιάματα και οι λίθοι. Βιβλιοθήκη της εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρείας, 37, 427σ.
Φωτιάδης, Μ., Παπαγιάννη, Δ., και Ευστρατίου Ν., 2001. Πετρωτά Θράκης: Προϊστορικό λατομείο πυριτόλιθου. Το Αρχαιολογικό Έργο στη Μακεδονία και Θράκη (ΑΕΜΘ), 15, 9-17 Βαβελίδης Μ., Χοτζίδης Α., και Μέλφος Β., 2007. Λατομεία και λατόμοι στη Θράκη. Στοιχεία για την αρχαία και σύγχρονη εποχή, Πρακτικά Ημερίδας: Δυνατότητες ανάπτυξης στο Βόρειο Έβρο: Πολιτισμός, ορυκτοί πόροι και περιβάλλον, Πετρωτά Έβρου, 4/8/2007.