The term metallurgy signifies the extraction of metals (copper, lead, silver) and all the stages of processing (hammering, melting) until their final shaping (metalworking) into objects such as jewellery, tools, weapons, vases and seals. The smelting of metals in clay crucibles, with regulated strengthening of the fire by using clay nozzles and their shaping in stone and clay dies is known on mainland Greece from the Late Neolithic II (4800-4500 BC). In the Aegean islands local metallurgical activities are ascertained by crucibles with slag remains from Kephala on Keos and Giali of the Dodecanese, as well as from bronze or gold jewellery and tools from Kastri on Thasos, Zas Cave on Naxos, Kephala on Keos and Giali, which date to the Final Neolithic (4500-3200 BC). The development of bronze metallurgy from the Early Bronze Age onwards effects improvement and expansion of many productive activities (agriculture, tool manufacture, navigation, etc).

According to archaeometallurgical surveys, silver, lead and copper which were used for the manufacture of the first metal artifacts derive from Aegean sources on Siphnos, Kythnos and most likely Seriphos and Syros. As indicated by obsidian tools employed for the extraction and first sorting out, the exploitation of the silver lead mines in Agios Sostis of Siphnos dates to the Final Neolithic period. The extraction galleries were approachable wells opened into the ground and served both the ventilation of the galleries and the hauling up of the metal. The smelting of the metals was made in open spaces, in cavities found close to the mines of Siphnos. According to recent surveys, the mines of Siphnos, Kythnos and Seriphos had exploitable silver, lead and copper deposits in the 3rd millenium BC. The raw materials which were used in the settlements of the Greek mainland and the islands of the northeastern Aegean in the beginning of the 3rd millenium BC come from these islands. The development of the Cycladic culture must be attributed to the exploitation of the metals as well. Metalworkers from various parts of the Aegean along with their families would set off on organized trips for the discovery of metals. In the mid-3rd millenium BC the systematic extraction of lead and silver begins in the mines of Laurion and Thorikos of Attica.

The use of bronze for the manufacture of resistant tools occurs for the first time in the Aegean, in Troas and the north Aegean islands (Lemnos, Lesbos) toward the beginning of the 3rd millenium BC. Tin, a basic metal for producing bronze does not exist in the Aegean, but in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Asia Minor (Taurus mountain range) and reached the Cyclades and the Greek mainland in the form of a prepared bronze alloy via the north Aegean islands. In the course of the Middle and Late Bronze Age the prehistoric metalworkers of the Aegean -with the Minoan and later Mycenaean merchants as pioneers- search for new copper and tin sources which are located in the Black Sea, the south Balkans, western Europe (tin from Germany and Britain) and the eastern Mediterranean.

Kythnos. Entrance to the galleries of copper extraction. Early Cycladic period.
Poliochni. Tools for the processing of metals: nozzle, die and hammer-axe.