Quarry Sites - The Archaeological Study of Ancient Quarries

Archaeological Site Type

Favignana Punic Quarry (Italy)
Favignana Punic Quarry (Italy). Alun Salt

In archaeological terms, a quarry or mine site is where raw material--stone or metal ore--was mined for use as building material or tool construction. Quarries are interesting to archaeologists, because discovering the sources of raw materials found on archaeological sites tells us how far people in the past could and would go for specific purposes, or what their trade networks might have been like.

Evidence at a quarry might also show available technology in the form of tools left behind and cut marks in the walls of the excavation pits.

The historical value of a quarry site is in what Bloxam (2011) has listed as four data elements: the resource itself (that is, the raw material); the production remains (tools, spoil and discarded products); the logistics (what it takes to get the raw material out of the quarry); and the social infrastructure (the organization of people required to use the quarry, make the objects and transport them away). She argues that quarries should be seen as complexes, fitting into a dynamic landscape where tradition, ancestry, memory, symbolism and information about territorial ownership coexist.

Sourcing and Dating Quarries

Connecting a stone or metal artifact to a particular quarry is possible in many cases, by comparing the geochemical makeup of the raw material.

This process is known as sourcing, and it is accomplished with a large number of fairly recent laboratory techniques.

Dating the use of a quarry is sometimes problematic, in part because if large enough the quarry may have been used by several cultural groups over several hundreds or even thousands of years.

In addition, quarrying tools which can be fairly non-diagnostic may be all the evidence left behind, rather than datable objects such as hearths or stone projectile points or pottery.


Brook Run (Archaic, USA), Gebel Manzal el-Seyl (Egypt, early Dynastic), Rano Raraku, Easter Island, Sagalassos (Turkey), Aswan West Bank (Egypt), Favignana Punic Quarry (Italy), Nazlet Khater (Egypt); Rumiqolqa (Peru), Pipestone National Monument (USA).


This glossary entry is a part of the About.com Guide to Archaeology Site Types and part of the Dictionary of Archaeology.

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Bloxam E. 2011. Ancient quarries in mind: pathways to a more accessible significance. World Archaeology 43(2):149-166.

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