Sediments from the ST5 deep-sea bottom core collected from the south-east Aegean Sea between Symi and Tilos islands, Greece, were examined by quantitative mineralogical analysis and geochemical analysis to infer provenance and palaeoenvironmental control over sediment deposition. The mineralogical composition comprises carbonates (mainly calcite and Mg-calcite), quartz, feldspars, serpentine, amphibole and clay minerals. Chlorite is the most abundant clay mineral, whereas smectite and illite are less abundant than in the sediments in the south-west Aegean and the Cretan Sea. Semi-quantitative analysis of clay minerals from oriented clay fractions overestimates significantly the smectite content and underestimates the abundances of illite, chlorite and kaolinite. The studied sediments are enriched in MgO, Ni and Cr, which decrease in abundance with decreasing depth, following the distribution of serpentine. By contrast, the abundances of SiO2, Al2O3, Fe2O3, Na2O and K2O increase upcore. The regional S1 sapropel horizon is enriched in V and Co and has considerably greater Ba/Al ratios than the remaining sequence. The mineralogical and geochemical relationships indicate a strong ultrabasic influence, probably from the Marmaris ophiolite in the Lycian nappes. The clay mineral distribution suggests that the smectite was mainly of volcanogenic origin, the illite was supplied by the nearby landmasses of west Anatolia and the islands of Rhodes, Tilos and Symi and the contribution from the south-east Mediterranean was limited or totally lacking. The combined use of the mineralogical and geochemical analysis of bulk sediments rather than the clay fractions is not only extremely useful in tracing sediment provenance in relatively closed basins, but it also enables a more realistic assessment of the importance of water circulation patterns on sedimentation processes in such environments.