Brace Yourselves: News From Amphipolis is Coming …

There has been quite the buzz about ‘that tomb’ at Amphipolis over the past couple of days and what has made it to the press — both on the English side and the Greek — is somewhat confusing. To a very large extent, the coverage is much like that of last year’s (  Alexander the Great Tomb in Amphipolis? Yeah … about that), which I encourage everyone to read to get the full back story of this. The skinny, however, is that the tomb was found originally a year and a half ago and ongoing speculation (in the media, not from the archaeologists involved, it appeared) was tying the tomb possibly to Roxane and/or Alexander IV, and even Alexander the Great was mentioned. Yesterday, there were a flurry of reports, none of which added anything new (with one exception, which we will get to) but suggested ‘something’ was happening. Today, according to assorted news reports, Greek Prime Minister Samaras visited the site and was given a tour, but again, we don’t really hear much of use to us. Here are Samaras’ comments according to eKathimerini:

Archaeologists digging at Ancient Amphipolis in Central Macedonia, northern Greece, are poised to make an “exceptionally important find,” according to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who visited the site on Tuesday.

“It is certain that we are looking at an exceptionally important find,” he said after being guided around the Kasta Hill by archaeologist Katerina Peristeri.

“The land of Macedonia continues to move and surprise us, revealing from deep within its unique treasures, which combine to form the unique mosaic of Greek history of which all Greeks are very proud,” he added. […]

“The main question the excavation will answer is regarding the identity of who has been buried here,” said Samaras.[…]

Outside of that, nothing new. The AP coverage (via the Washington Post), however, includes this indirect statement:

Samaras said a broad road led to the tomb, while the entrance was flanked by two carved sphinxes — mythical creatures that blend human, bird and lion characteristics. It was unclear how far archaeologists have reached.

Not sure how the archaeologists feel about the Prime Minister announcing their find, if it was indeed found as stated. Whatever the case, it was this claim of an entrance with sphinxes which was giving me hesitations about the coverage and the indirect statement above doesn’t really help. That said, to its credit, Greek Reporter includes a Youtube video which is basically a slideshow that appears to show that an entrance has indeed been found:

If it is the entrance, it’s covered with tarps and we really can’t see any sphinxes (sphinges?).

Turning to the Greek (in Greek) coverage, the hints were there yesterday that there is a major find here. Newsbomb.gr was one of the outlets which said that police/the army had been brought in to guard the site: Σπουδαία αρχαιολογική ανακάλυψη στην Αρχαία Αμφίπολη Σερρών … I wonder if they stayed after Samaras left.

In any event, I found it somewhat unusual that the Greek press was really being silent on this one (none were mentioning the sphinxes) and was suspicious, of course. Here’s a smattering of the coverage, most of which just repeats the same stuff as is found in Kathimerini‘s Greek (and English) coverage.

Then, in a very timely manner, @Tzzz21 on twitter (who gets many tips o’ the pileus for feeding me much of the coverage) just sent a link to an item in News 247 which included this picture (as well as the slideshow mentioned above):

via News 247

To which I can only say: WOW! We now anxiously await to hear from the archaeologists.

 

UPDATE (literally seconds later): @Tzzz21 sent in a link with a pile more photos:

… to which we can several more wows … we’ll obviously be monitoring this one

 

UPDATE II (a few hours later): definitely read Dorothy King’s post on this for additional details (including answers to some questions I had about the sphinxes!): Let’s Talk About Amphipolis …(Dorothy King’s PhDiva)

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4 thoughts on “Brace Yourselves: News From Amphipolis is Coming …

  1. The sphinxes guarding the entrance to the vast lion tomb currently being excavated at Amphipolis are extremely interesting. Dorothy King in her blog has raised the question of archaeological parallels and has mentioned the Hecatomnid Androns at Labraunda, although she notes that these are bearded, whereas the Amphipolis sphinxes seem not to have had beards. However, I believe there may be a more cogent parallel in the pair of Greek-style sphinxes uncovered by Auguste Mariette in excavating the dromos of the Memphite Serapeum at Saqqara in Egypt (photos below). Lauer & Picard in their 1955 book on these sculptures believed them to date to Ptolemy I. Dorothy Thompson in her 1988 book on Memphis Under The Ptolemies suggested that the semicircle of statues of Greek philosophers and poets, also uncovered by Mariette in the dromos of the Memphite Serapeum, had guarded the entrance of the first tomb of Alexander the Great at Memphis. I elaborated on this idea in my article on The Sarcophagus of Alexander the Great published in Greece & Rome in April 2002 and in my subsequent books on Alexander’s tomb. If so, then the sphinxes found at the Serapeum were probably also part of Ptolemy’s decoration for the first tomb of Alexander. It is therefore quite striking that extremely similar sphinxes have been found guarding the entrance of the tomb at Amphipolis.

    • It looks like this tomb was designed for Alexander III and therefore may be empty. I know all evidence points to Ptolemy taking the body to Memphis. But could it be that Ptolemy lied about taking Alexander’s body? The body in Egypt could be the mummified body of Nectanebo II and Alexander’s body could be safely escorted to Amphipolis?

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