Greek archaeology site sparks intense interest (Update)

Aug 21, 2014 by Nicholas Paphitis

Archaeologists excavating a large burial mound in northern Greece that has captivated the public's imagination have asked politicians and others seeking guided tours of the site to leave them in peace.

The Culture Ministry appealed Thursday for "understanding" while the Amphipolis excavation proceeds.

The partially uncovered tomb from the end of Greek warrior-king Alexander the Great's reign, which was found inside the mound, has sparked intense media interest amid wild speculation that it may contain rich treasures or the bones of an ancient celebrity.

Alexander inherited the throne of Macedonia, in northern Greece, from where he set off to conquer a vast empire reaching India. He died in 323 B.C. at age 33 and was buried in Egypt—although the precise location of his grave is one of the enduring mysteries of archaeology.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has already visited the Amphipolis excavation and state TV daily leads news bulletins with incremental developments about the dig.

So far, archaeologists have uncovered part of the late 4th-century B.C. tomb's entrance, which has two large marble sphinxes placed on a lintel just under the barrel-vaulted roof. Underneath lies the doorway, still covered in earth, with traces of painted plaster decoration.

"It's astonishing, the biggest tomb we have found in Greece so far," said archaeologist Chryssoula Paliadelli, an expert on the period who is not involved in the excavation. "It clearly shows the wealth that allowed construction of what was, at the time, a hugely costly monument."

But the tomb may well have been looted hundreds and hundreds of years ago.

Part of a stone wall that blocked off the subterranean entrance is missing, while the sphinxes—originally two meters (6 feet) high—lack heads and wings. Near the sphinxes, excavators have found fragments of a large marble lion that originally capped the mound, which indicates the site was severely damaged and dug up in later antiquity.

Nobody knows yet who the mound was built for.

Alexander's mother, widow, son, brother and sister-in-law were all murdered in separate attacks in the Amphipolis area during the brutal power struggles that followed his death. However, Macedonian royals were traditionally buried at Aegae, further to the west, where rich, unplundered graves excavated in the late 1970s have been identified as those of Alexander's father, Philip II, and a slain son.

Older research has tentatively linked the lion statue, which was removed during Roman times and discovered a century ago some 5 kilometers (3 miles) away, with Laomedon, one of Alexander's military commanders; his admiral, Nearchos, was a citizen of Amphipolis.

"It's all speculation until we see the inside (of the tomb)" said Michalis Tiverios, a professor of archaeology at the University of Thessaloniki.

The excavation is expected to last at least another few weeks.

Explore further: Greek PM says important tomb found in northern dig

4.7 /5 (11 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Greek PM says important tomb found in northern dig

Aug 12, 2014

Archaeologists excavating an ancient mound in northern Greece have uncovered what appears to be the entrance to an important tomb from about the end of the reign of warrior-king Alexander the Great, officials ...

Ancient mound in Greece fuels heady speculation

Aug 22, 2013

Greece's Culture Ministry has warned against "overbold" speculation that an ancient artificial mound being excavated could contain a royal Macedonian grave or even Alexander the Great.

Burials in Greece linked to Macedonia kings

Mar 13, 2014

A Greek archaeologist says she has discovered 20 new burials near Macedonia's ancient capital in northern Greece, and some could tentatively be associated with the early Macedonian kings.

Recommended for you

King Richard III died painfully on battlefield

4 hours ago

England's King Richard III might well have lost his kingdom for a horse. The reviled king suffered nearly a dozen injuries on the battlefield, but the fatal blows were probably only sustained after he had to abandon his horse, ...

'Hidden Treasure of Rome' project unveiled

9 hours ago

For more than a century, hundreds of thousands of historical artifacts dating back to before the founding of Rome have been stored in crates in the Capitoline Museums of Rome, where they have remained mostly untouched. Now, ...

NOAA team reveals forgotten ghost ships off Golden Gate

12 hours ago

A team of NOAA researchers today confirmed the discovery just outside San Francisco's Golden Gate strait of the 1910 shipwreck SS Selja and an unidentified early steam tugboat wreck tagged the "mystery wreck." ...

Long lost Roman fort discovered in Gernsheim

13 hours ago

In the course of an educational dig in Gernsheim in the Hessian Ried, archaeologists from Frankfurt University have discovered a long lost Roman fort: A troop unit made up out of approximately 500 soldiers ...

User comments : 0