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Lemnian Earth and the Earths of the Aegean

Effie Photos-Jones and Allan J. Hall

The earths of the Aegean, the 'industrial minerals' of antiquity, were used daily by people as medicines, pigments, fumigants, mordants or washing powders. Yet they are elusive in the archaeological record. This book, (144 pages and illustrated in full colour), attempts to pull these elusive substances out of the relative obscurity of the documentary sources and asks the question: can they be found today on the islands that gave them their names? and if they are indeed found, will they work? The extraction of the Lemnian Earth, from the island of Lemnos, in the north Aegean, was bestowed with rituals blessed by both pagan gods and the Church for over two thousand years; but did it work simply because people willed it to work?

The authors suggest that ancient myths and rituals may be covert ways of expressing geochemical and/or industrial processes, the aim of which was to enhance the properties of a natural material with positive results to health and the prevention of deceases.

There are many good reasons why it is important to examine closely the earths of the Aegean: they can potentially throw light into a well recorded practice known as geophagia, or the deliberate consumption of clays by both humans and animals; equally, they can perhaps guide current and ongoing pharmacological research into minerals-based antibiotics.

(Click here to view Table of contents and a selection of pages from the book)

Reviewer's Comments

"The book successfully brings the 'composition and property of materials' closer to the vast and largely unquantifiable 'universe' of beliefs about health and well-being. It has a substantial academic content and provides access for a non-specialist to little known area of research. Its cross-disciplinarity is fascinating: it demonstrates that such an approach can result in new knowledge. It is a pleasure to read."

Professor Marek Dominiczak,

Clinical Biochemistry and Medical Humanities, University of Glasgow

About the authors

Effie Photos-Jones is the director of SASAA, a company specialising in the technical characterisation of archaeological materials. She has published extensively and is the author of over 200 technical reports.

Allan Hall is a geoarchaeologist specialising in the application of mineralogy and geochemistry in research at the University of Glasgow, UK.

The authors' interest in the earths stems from their long-term research on volcanic islands of the Aegean.