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The ancient quarries at Marathi

At the site of Marathi, some 5 kilometers northeastern to Paroikia, the visitor may see the ancient quarries of the “Parian stone”. Big galleries, some 200 meters long, go deep in the soil and have three entrances. At the left side of the southern entrance there is a nice Hellenistic bas-relief with interesting carving and a partly preserved inscription. The sculpture is dedicated to the Nymphs, who were worshipped here; hence, the name “Quarry of the Nymphs”. There are also preserved several construction as support columns, staircases, retaining walls and a considerable number of pieces of marble.

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During the Byzantine times the extraction stopped, as art followed a different direction and the marble was not used too much. Later on, during the domination of the Francs and mainly in the period of Somaripa, the trade of marble flourished again. The precious material was exported in several places of the Mediterranean and above all in Venice.

After the liberation of the island from the Ottoman yoke the quarries knew a new period of flourishing. During 1844-1877 the exploitation of the quarries was in the hands of the French Company of Marble, whereas from 1878 and for three years it passed to the hands of a Belgians company. New establishments were built; a railway was constructed to transport the marble to the port of Paroikia, even special coins were issued by the company for the internal exchanges. After the company collapsed, the quarry passed to the hands of a Greek company, which continued to operate it for a few years. Today, the extraction has been reduced and the small amounts of marble extracted come from other smaller quarries of the island. The ancient quarry has been transformed to a monument of industrial archaeology and it is open to public.
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