A mineralogical, petrographic and geochemical study for neolithic stone artefacts from Drakaina Cave

A mineralogical, petrographic and geochemical study for neolithic stone artefacts from Drakaina Cave

Drakaina Cave provides important information concerning the degree of exploitation of natural resources and in particular the array of lithic raw materials used for specific purposes by its neolithic users. Such an investigation is possible through the mineralogical, petrographic and geochemical study of representative samples from the great number of lithic artefacts which have been uncovered during the excavations of the neolithic layers of the cave. The aim of the study is the determination of the raw materials used for the manufacture of specific implements, as well as their possible sources.

Figure 1

Several methods of analyses were applied for the study of the artefacts. Thin and polished sections of the samples were mineralogically studied by optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The mineralogical composition of rock samples was assessed by X-ray diffraction (XRD) at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the University of Athens. In addition, the samples were analyzed by means of Inductively Coupled Plasma Optical Emission Spectrometry (ICP/OES) to determine their major elements and by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP/MS) for the determination of their trace element and rare earth element (REE) content at the “Activation Laboratories Ltd” in Ontario and the “Als Chemex” in Vancouver, Canada.

The Drakaina chipped-stone artefacts, such as cores, arrows, blades, bladelets, scrapers, chips and waste flakes, were made of chert and vary in colour. A broad classification, on the basis of their colour, revealed five wide categories: grey, black, brown, red and yellow cherts. Field observations in Kefalonia island, especially at the central and southern parts, revealed that the bedded limestones contain good quality chert nodules and layers. In addition, the Pliocene-Holocene sediments, as well as the alluvial deposits contain small slices (

Figure 2

The raw material of two ground stone artefacts from Drakaina Cave is characterized as gabbro (medium-grained) and dolerite (fine-grained). Gabbro and dolerite do not occur in any of the Ionian islands, including Kefalonia. Based on the geochemical analyses and especially on the REE data, the most probable source of these rocks, which were used to make the artefacts of Drakaina Cave, is Moura-Aspropotamos location on Pindos mountain.

Figure 3

Four small, fragmented, discoid beads were analyzed in total. These were very soft, light-green and dark-green in colour, and were made of pure talc, a mineral of low hardness, consisting of hydrated magnesium silicate. It is highly probable that in addition to gabbro and dolerite, talc was also transported to the island of Kefalonia.

Figure 4Limestones and sandstones, which were used by the neolithic inhabitants to make passive and active tools of abrasion and percussion, including polishing tools, were obtained from the Drakaina Cave area, as they are the predominant rock types of the island.

Figure 5

Figure 6

The studied pigments were sourced locally and, depending on their colour, consist of various minerals, e.g. calcite and quartz for white plasters, calcite and goethite for the yellow colour as well as goethite, calcite and quartz for the brown colour and hematite, calcite and quartz for the red pigments.

Figure 7

Finally, the raw material for the manufacture of a zoomorphic vessel is crystalline white marble, a rock which is not found in Ionian Islands and in Western Greece. The most accurate methods for distinguishing white marbles of different origin are petrographic analysis and stable isotopes (13C and 18O). The provenance determination is based on an extended data base which contains published data from 60 different ancient white-marble quarrying sites in the Eastern Mediterranean region, including Greece, Minor Asia in Turkey, Italy and FYROM, with a total of more than 650 isotopic analyses. Combining the results of this study it is concluded that the raw material of the white marble artefact found in Drakaina Cave comes from Naxos. This is well documented from the isotopic signatures, the mineralogical composition and the fact Naxos was a marble-producing island during the Neolithic and the Early Bronze Age.


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Fig. 1. A chert nodule within the bedded limestones of Atros cape, Kefalonia.

Fig. 2. Photomicrograph showing typical texture of the cherts with Radiolaria consisting of chalcedony. Τhin section, +N, picture length = 30 μm.

Fig. 3. Photomicrograph of the mineral composition of gabbro of a ground stone artefact. Τhin section, +N, picture length = 2.5 mm.

Fig. 4. Perforated, ring-shaped bead with straight edges made of talc. Scanning electron microscope (SEM).

Fig. 5. Photomicrograph showing a fossil within calcite and organic material. Thin section, +N, picture length = 1.2 mm.

Fig. 6. Photomicrograph of red sandstone: a fragment of fossil within calcite and quartz grains. Thin section, +N, picture length = 1.2 mm.

Fig. 7. Goethite rounded nodules found in limestones, 3 km north of Drakaina Cave. It was used as raw material for producing brown and yellow pigments.

June 2009
Vasilios Melfos
Department of Mineralogy, Petrology and Economic Geology,
Faculty of Geology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,
GR-54124, Thessaloniki, Greece
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