Thassos famed for its white marble
Karen Mills: January 2012
Thassos famed for its pure white marble.
Anyone who has been on holiday to Thassos will not have failed to notice the island's marble heritage.
Thassos marble is famed throughout the world for its translucent quality and lorries loaded with huge marble slabs can often be seen at Thassos Town port.
Holiday visitors who tour the island will certainly have passed any one of the many marble quarries that can be seen on Thassos.
Thassos or Thasos is one the most northern of the Greek holiday islands, located in the Aegean Sea, close to the coast of Thrace and the river plain of Nestos and, geographically part of Macedonia.
Thassos is also the name of the main holiday resort on the island and is also called Limenas Thasou or 'Port of Thasos'. It is found on the north side of the island, opposite the mainland and about 10 kilometres from the mainland port of Keramoti.
Thassos marble obviously takes it name from the island and has been quarried here since ancient times. It is known that Thassos marble was exported to Samothrace, the coast of Asia Minor, and to South Greece from the 6th century BC.
It appears that the island was originally settled by Phoenicians who worked the island's gold mines, but in the 7th century BC Greeks from Paros colonised the island and founded a school of sculpture.
Thassos marble was used extensively to construct temples and other religious and official buildings of importance. From the 1st century BC until the 3rd century AD a great amount of Thassos marble was imported by the Romans who had a particular fondness for its soft snow white colour.
Besides its marble and its gold mines, Thassos was also known in antiquity for its wine. Thassos wine had a characteristic apple aroma and was once so famous that all Thassos coins once depicted the wine god Dionysos on one side and grapes on the other.
It is thought that ancient marble quarries were only open 'temporarily' for a specific project, such as a building or statue. When the work was finished the quarry was often abandoned.
It's possible that a marble quarry at Mourgena was opened to make two 'kourous' statues, one of which is in Thassos museum and another at a museum in Istanbul. A former quarry at Naxo is thought to be where three 'kouroi' were made. Traces of ancient marble quarries can also be see at Akeratou and Fanari.
Today, Thassos produces three types of white marble — Extra White, Snow White and Pure White. All are considered among the best marbles and the whitest available. Thassos marble is very pure in colour with no veins or shadows and the best is very rare. It is called the 'diamond' of the white marble and used in extremely luxurious constructions.
Modern Thassos marble quarries use state-of-the art technology to meet high demand from across the world. Most Thassos marble is exported and Thassos has several marble factories which process the stone ready for export.
Holiday visitors to Thassos can take tours of the marble quarries. Every Friday at 10am there is a free tour of the Thassos Marble factory just outside of Thassos Town, heading towards the village of Panagia .