Catching Up With Developments at Amphipolis

It’s been almost a month since our last major post on the excavations at Amphipolis (Amphipolis Tomb Possibly Looted in Antiquity? I am Officially Confused!) and nearly as long since we speculated on who (if anyone) might be eventually found in the tomb (Thinking Out Loud About the Amphipolis Tomb ~ The Rogueclassicist Speculates). School has finally settled down a bit (although the internet has been out for the past few days, or this might have come out earlier), so we finally get a chance to check on the progress of the dig (plenty!) and consider how our working hypothesis about the possible occupant of the tomb is working out. This post will be long and photo-heavy, so give it time to load!

We’ll begin with some photos from August 26, which show something I had long wondered about … the mosaic floors (photos via the Ministry of Culture):

Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture

For an awkwardly-worded English report on same: Amphipolis: Pebbled floor came to light (Protothema … tip o’ the pileus to ‘J’ for sending that) along.

Although they need a bit of cleaning, obviously, it is interesting that the second one appears to be in the same sort of style (although on a smaller scale?) as the House of Dionysus at Pella, which dates to the last quarter of the fourth century (via Wikipedia):

via Wikipedia

via Wikipedia

 

About the same time, we began getting our first speculations in English of people other than Alexander who might be in the tomb. From LiveScience, e.g.:

Michalis Tiverios, an archaeology professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, told AFP a more likely candidate could be Nearchus, one of Alexander’s admirals, who lived in Amphipolis.

At the end of August, archaeologists had cleared the first chamber behind the ‘sphinxes’ and were assessing construction techniques and what needed to be done. (Ministry of Culture Press Release). They had also found yet another style of mosaic floor (white stones set in a red matrix … source):

Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture

 

Meanwhile, the Greek Television Station ENA flew a helicopter over the site which nicely demostrates how HUGE this thing actually is:

We also began to hear about the ‘circus-like’ atmosphere the archaeologists had to contend with by this point … from  Greek Reporter comes an excerpt:

An official source, who has knowledge of the tomb’s excavation progress, claims that the archaeologists and crew cannot do their job as their mobile phones keep ringing and they have to fend off TV cameras and microphones shoved in their faces every day. They receive calls from politicians and journalists who are eager to know when they will go inside the tomb and what they expect to find there. Also, they have to answer speculations, wishes, and wild conspiracy theories. They even have to answer to technical details such as what kind of cameras they use to look inside the tomb without demolishing the protective wall. And all this while the initial excavation is still in progress!

At the same time, crowds of people gather all day long around the site that looks more and more like a community fair. Eager tourists and locals rush to see the media’s new archaeological Disneyland first, while the smoke from the souvlaki and hot dogs grills fills the air. Under the five-meter lion’s imposing gaze, a vendor from nearby village Strymoniko is selling peanuts, a way to survive in crisis-hit Greece.

We also had our first (in English) OpEd piece on how politicized the discovery was becoming … an excerpt from Kathimerini:

[...] It is not hard to imagine the impact of such a discovery if we take a look at the existing evidence. It is a known fact that Greece has long been at odds with Israel over who can claim the lead in nationalized and politicized archaeology, often in a way that is an affront to the scientific community. Let us take the findings of excavations in northern Greece, for example, constantly cited to suit political circumstances and often acting as ambassadors of national policy: The findings and their interpretation are used to prove the primal Greekness of the Macedonians and once and for all silence our unmentionable neighbors to the north who, surrendered to their own obsessive national policy, are seeking control over parts if not all of our Macedonian heritage.

Now, the ancient relics of Amphipolis are once more being linked to the name dispute and being used for petty political interests. They are being presented by the state and by many representatives of the media as the final confirmation of Macedonia’s Greekness, even though as a country we have staunchly supported this fact for the past 20 years. We have also heard it said that the findings at the tomb have steeled the morale of disheartened Greeks. First of all, with so many surpluses about, surely the Greeks are no longer disheartened. And second, if our morale has sunk to such a low (despite the Parthenon, Olympia, Delphi, Knossos and Vergina) that it needs a tomb to be revived, then there is much more we need to be worried about.

We have also heard that the discoveries at Amphipolis are contributing to the improvement of Greece’s international image – ergo, they may boost tourism. If the government really had such a high regard of archaeology, then why is it cutting back funding to the extent of causing major operational problems at excavations, sites and museums?

After much shoring up/stability work, on September 7 we got our first set of photos showing the Karyatids which ‘womanned’ the entrance to the next  chamber (source):

Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture

kary2

Ministry of Culture

kary3

Ministry of Culture

kary4

Ministry of Culture

kary5

Ministry of Culture

 

Incredibly nice pieces and enough to spark a major interest (finally) on the part of the English world press. What I found particularly interesting was that the Karyatids were missing their arms (I’ll be returning to that below, although see Dorothy King’s post on the Karyatids). According to the Telegraph’s brief coverage:

[...] “The structure of the second entrance with the Caryatids is an important finding, which supports the view that it is a prominent monument of great importance,” the ministry said.

The face of one of the Caryatids is missing, while both figures have one hand outstretched in a symbolic move to push away anyone who would try to violate the tomb. [...]

A better bit of coverage came from Dorothy King, whose post puts the Karyatids in context very nicely: The Amphipolis Caryatids

Edith Hall has also provided some useful background to Karyatids: CARYATIDS IN A (WAL)NUT SHELL

 

A couple days later, the Ministry release a really nice little reconstruction sort of thing showing where the finds to this point came from:

 

Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture

Then, on September 11, we were given the ‘full reveal’ of the Karyatids (source):

Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture

kary7

Ministry of Culture

kary8

Ministry of Culture

 

The wall behind the Karyatids revealed a very nice (it seems) Ionic doorway:

Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture

I’ve never seen three ‘nested’ blocks before, but I’m sure it’s not uncommon. In any event, after that came another domed chamber, which wasn’t filled with as much sandy soil as the previous two; the photos aren’t overly exciting, but can be viewed here. More shoring up was in order. Today’s press release added more details on work to be done, but also included some more photos of the Karyatids, which stand 2.27 m. tall and still bear traces of paint (source).

Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture

karyb

Ministry of Culture

karyc

Ministry of Culture

karyd

Ministry of Culture

We should note that Dr Olga Palagia has been long suggesting that the tomb actually dates to Roman times and contains the bodies of those who fell at the battle of Phillipi, a few centuries later than the current date. Her views haven’t been much presented in the English press, but she did give a full interview to a Greek newspaper: Όλγα Παλαγγιά: Το μνημείο της Αμφίπολης χρονολογείται στη Ρωμαϊκή εποχή (September 16). For what it’s worth, the English media seem to be unwilling to name Dr Palagia, e.g., from Kathimerini:

The archaeologist leading the dig at Ancient Amphipolis insists that the tomb at Kasta Hill she and her colleagues are searching was built in the late 4th century BC.

“I firmly believe that this monument is from the last quarter of the 4th century BC and we have all the proof for this,” said Katerina Peristeri on Thursday.

“It is futile for other archaeologists to come out and talk about it being from the Roman era or anything else.”

Archaeologists entered the third chamber of the tomb, which has been linked to Alexander the Great, last Friday.

I’m sure we’ll be getting some major news next week. Until then, you can peruse a piece from Greek Reporter which nicely sums up all the speculation about who might be in the tomb:

While evidence shows that archaeologists are one step away from uncovering the “big secret” of Amphipolis, Greece, people are speculating on who is buried under Casta hill. Archaeologists and other world experts have supported different theories on who is the important ‘tenant’ of the Casta Hill. See the most popular ones below:

Olympias

Mother of Alexander the Great, wife of Philip II, king of Macedon, and daughter of King Neoptolemus of Epirus. Cassander had her murdered by stoning in 316 BC. (Read full story)

Androsthenes, Laomedon and Nearchus

Alexander the Great’s three admirals are closely connected to Amphipolis. Androsthenes and Laomedon were born there while Nearchus was either born or exiled in Amphipolis.

Cassander

Son of Antipater, did not follow Alexander’s army in Asia. He stayed with his father in Macedonia and used to fight with Polyperchon but eventually allied with him, when he killed Alexander’s son, Heracles. In 311 BC, he killed Alexander’s second son and successor, Alexander IV, along with his mother Roxana. He died of edema in 279 BC.

Polyperchon

He served under Philip and Alexander. He returned to Greece from Asia in 324 BC -after the death of Alexander- and was appointed regent of Macedon by Antipater in place of the latter’s son, Cassander.

Philip II of Macedon

Some do not believe that the tomb of king Philip was located in Vergina. Meanwhile, others claim that ancient Greeks might have built a second monument in Amphipolis to commemorate the king.

Heracles

Son of Alexander who was murdered with his mother, Barsine.

Alexander IV

The twelve-year-old son of Alexander and Roxana who was murdered along with his mother by Cassander. If his grave is located in Vergina, then it is possible that someone buried him and disposed of his mother’s corpse.

Alexander the Great

Alexander sailed from Amphipolis to Asia. However, it is almost certain that his tomb is located in Alexandria, since people such as Julius Caesar have visited his burial site. Some, however, insist that his bones were moved to Amphipolis by Olympias, while others argue that it is a cenotaph “waiting” to receive him, or a second monument in his honor.

Cenotaph or Memorial

This view is supported by the various influences on the monument’s construction as well as its size.

Hephaestion

General of Alexander’s army. Professor Theodoros Mavrogiannis believes that the Casta hill tomb belongs to Hephaestion and claims that the tomb was built in 325 BC by order of Alexander himself.

Roxana

The wife of Alexander became the mother of his son in 323 BC after Alexander had died. Roxana fled to Epirus in order to be saved by his descendants, and later went to Amphipolis, where she was murdered by Cassander in 310 BC.

Antigonus Monophthalmus

General of Alexander’s army, was proclaimed king in 306 BC and demanded that Cassander gives him Macedon. He died eighty-one years old and was buried with royal honors.

Philip Arrhidaeus

Son of king Philip. After Alexander’s death, he was proclaimed king by the Macedonian army as Philip III of Macedon. He was killed by soldiers who defected against Olympias. His bones were transported by Cassander to Aegae.

For my part, I continue to cling to my hypothesis that the tomb was intended for Alexander, but when his body was hijacked and sent to Alexandria by Ptolemy, the tomb itself was sealed up within a few years as it really could not have been used by someone else without political implications. The more I see missing parts of sculpture, e.g., heads of ‘sphinxes’, arms of Karyatids, that don’t seem to be broken off (the arms of the Karyatids don’t look like they were actually attached) — with the caveat that their existence/finding may not be reported in the press — the more I think this tomb was unfinished. Perhaps as well, parts were removed to ensure that it was considered unfinished and, therefore, empty.

That said, I find Olga Palagia’s theory interesting, but would really like to hear more details from both sides on what is being used to establish the date of the tomb. That the mosaic floor in one part of the tomb stylistically matches something from Pella is probably important in this regard. There must also be ceramics in the soil being removed; there might also possibly be organic matter which can be given the C14 treatment.

Finally, by way of ‘conclusion’ we should also note that Dorothy King has penned a number of blogposts answering ongoing questions about the tomb along the way:

August 21 at Amphipolis ~ From the Ministry of Culture

HUGE tip o’ the pileus to Peggy Ringa (on facebook) for pointing me to the Ministry’s press releases. Here’s today’s activity in Greek (skinny to follow):

Συνεχίζονται οι ανασκαφικές εργασίες στο ταφικό μνημείο, στον Τύμβο Καστά από την ΚΗ Εφορεία Προϊστορικών και Κλασικών Αρχαιοτήτων, στην Αμφίπολη. Σήμερα, απομακρύνθηκαν, με άκρα προσοχή, χώματα τα οποία βρίσκονταν στο διάκενο και πίσω από τα αγάλματα των Σφιγγών, σε βάθος περίπου, δυο μέτρων , και σε πλάτος ανάλογο της εισόδου του τάφου, ήτοι 4.50 μ. ´Ετσι, προχώρησε, στο μεγαλύτερο τμήμα της η αποχωμάτωση του εσωρραχίου της θόλου.

Ταυτόχρονα, συνεχίστηκε η αφαίρεση πέντε λιθόπλινθων , από την έκτη σειρά του τοίχου σφράγισης, με τη βοήθεια μηχανικού μέσου . Μετά την απομάκρυνσή τους, αποκαλύφθηκε κάτω από τη βάση των Σφιγγών, το ανώτερο τμήμα του μαρμάρινου θυρώματος.
Καλύπτεται με fresco σε μίμηση ιωνικού επιστυλίου. Φέρει διακόσμηση με
κόκκινο, μπλε και μαύρο χρώμα. Αμέσως, κάτω από το ιωνικό επιστύλιο, αποκαλύφθηκαν δυο ιωνικά επίκρανα των παραστάδων της θύρας, επίσης επικαλυπτόμενα με fresco και επιζωγραφισμένα με τα ίδια χρώματα. Οι εργασίες θα συνεχιστούν αύριο με προτεραιότητα την στερέωση και συντήρηση των σημερινών ευρημάτων.

The skinny is they cleared a bit behind the sphinxes and below the architrave they’re sitting on. There are some really nice ionic pilasters revealed, with easily visible traces of red paint (as well as black). Here’s a photo (click for larger). They’ve also found a doorway:

Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture

… and another:

Ministry of Culture

Ministry of Culture

Folks who follow me on twitter know I was asking this this afternoon and I want to put it out there to the blog audience too: how do we know these are sphinxes when they don’t have heads? They might be griffons/gryphons/griffins (choose your spelling).

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)

Archaic Pithos Burials (and others) from Chios

Brief item from eKathimerini:

A dig on the eastern Aegean island of Chios has unearthed parts of an ancient necropolis dating to between 7th and 6th centuries BC and belonging to the Archaic period.

The graves, which were found by archaeologists in the Psomi area, were pithos burials – meaning that the dead were placed inside pithoi, or large storage vases – and the bodies were placed in a supine position on layers of sea pebbles.

Archaeologists also uncovered a number of sarcophagi and the remains of a horse, which have been transferred to the Archaeological Museum of Chios for further examination and preservation.

… the original eKathimerini article includes a nice photo of the horse burial.

Additional sources below have some different photos:

Thera and Iasos

A rather confusing item from Hurriyet:

Archaeologists working on Iasos on Turkey’s Aegean coast have recently discovered that the ancient city was buried under a mountain of ash caused by the explosion of Mt. Thera on Santorini 3,600 years ago.

Excavation works have also revealed a sewage system that was in place in the 4,000-year-old city and tunnels to the city’s theater.

Excavations are being carried out by the world-famous Italian archaeology team of Studi Delle Tuscia University. The head of the excavations, Professor Marcello Spanu, is working with assistant archaeologists Emanuele Borgia and Şevki Bardakçı, Culture and Tourism Ministry official Selvet Karamahmut, 28 other Italian archaeologists, as well as university students who have recently unearthed new historic sites within the ancient city.

Spanu said columns that were found one meter underground provided vital information about the history of the city. “Following the explosion of the volcano Thera, which also caused the destruction of the Minoan civilization on the islands of Crete and Santorini, the ancient city was covered with ash and remained so for a while.

This is why its sewage system and tunnels to the ancient theater did not change. At the end of the excavation and restoration works, for which we spend nearly 100,000 Turkish Liras annually, I am sure that this place will be Turkey’s largest, as well as one of its most important, archeoparks,” Spanu said.

Plans to attract more tourists

But Bardakçı, the deputy head of the excavations and an official from the Mediterranean Civilizations Research Institute, lamented the poor state of the promotion of Iasos, as well as the historic and cultural heritage of the surrounding Kıyıkışlacık village, while noting that they would undertake new endeavors to draw in more visitors.

He said the excavation and restoration works had shed light on historic artifacts across a vast area and succeeded in providing key data about the region’s past.

“As a result of works that will be carried out in the agora, the Artemis and Astias holy area, the Zeus Mefistos area, the mosaic house, the acropolis, the western port castle and the port, which was constructed between 1481 and 1522, the region will become one of the richest ancient cities in terms of cultural heritage. We have prepared the exact location and a digital map of the ancient city with satellite photos. When the project is done, we expect that tourists will rush to the area. As of next year, we will be in negotiations with travel agencies and tour operators to promote Iasos by way of daily boat tours and jeep safaris,” Bardakçı said.

This is why its sewage system and tunnels to the ancient theater did not change. Are they suggesting there was a sewage system and theater at Iasos prior to the eruption of Thera? Or are they trying to suggest the destruction layer of the volcano helps to show that the archaeological remains didn’t ‘change much’?

Sourcing Trireme Lumber

From Greek Reporter:

Scientists from Greece and the US believe they are close to tracing the wood from which ancient triremes were made.  The scientists are searching in Pieria (one of the regional units of Greece, located in the southern part of Macedonia, in the Region of Central Macedonia) for the Macedonian fir and the pine tree of Olympus and Pieria, locally known as “liacha.”

According to Aristotle’s successor Theophrastus, this tree was used for the laborious process of constructing paddles and ships. Prints on the earth of this particular kind of wood, which has no knots but great resistance to salt water, were discovered during the archaeological excavations that started in 2003 in Methoni of Pieria.

This fact, after the announcement of the results of the findings at a scientific conference that took place in Thessaloniki in 2011, mobilized scientists from different sectors in Greece, Los Angeles in the USA, Britain and Ireland, who have ever since been working together to discover pure pieces of wood from the 8th century at the excavation site in Methoni that will continue its work in 2014.

“At this moment a big cooperation is in process, which started at the end of 2011 between the 27th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classic Antiquities, which is based in the capital of Pieria, Katerini, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTH) and the Archaeology Department of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA),” the President of the Philology Department of AUTH, Ioannis Tzifopoulos, explained.

He also explained that on the American side, the Greek-American professor John Papadopoulos, who for many years has led excavations in Toroni of Chalkidiki, in Epirus, as well as in Albania, shows particular interest in the object of the excavations in Methoni of Pieria.

Back to Zagora

From the Australian:

BEFORE the first ancient Olympics, as Homer was writing his Iliad, there was a bustling early Iron Age city in Greece. And then it all but disappeared.

Australian archaeologists will try to solve the ancient mystery of why the city was abandoned and whether a lack of fresh water was the cause.

They’re off to Zagora, a city that was thriving with farming and industry on the island of Andros in the 9th century BC before it was inexplicably abandoned.

That was about the time of Homer and before Sparta and the Athenian democracy.

Australia’s first archaeological dig in Greece was at Zagora in the 1960s and 1970s and they managed to excavate about 10 per cent of the 6.5 hectare site but did not solve the riddle.

Now 50 Australians will begin working there again next week, hoping to finally explain why an entire population would leave a city at the heart of a major sea trading route.

Some things haven’t changed.

They’ll have to hike in and out to the isolated site each day and use pack mules to carry heavy equipment.

But some things are different.

Ground penetrating radar, satellite imaging analysis and multi-spectral treatment of those images might help, says one of the dig’s co-directors, Lesley Beaumont from Sydney University’s Department of Archaeology.

“What we are able to do now, which couldn’t even have been dreamed of back then, is to use subsurface testing methods … to look underneath the surface of the ground before even putting a spade into it,” she told AAP.

They are curious about whether hydrology might have something to do with the abandonment of the settlement that had been growing at an extraordinary rate.

“One of the ideas we are investigating is whether there has been an earthquake because the ground rock is layers of schist and marble, and marble can be permeated by water but schist can’t.

“If there was a shifting of the layers because of earthquake the water courses could have been altered and the site that was once able to have water may suddenly run dry.”

With three years of funding they began last year with big picture analysis and geophysical survey with help from a geologist. This year includes satellite imagery work, aerial photography and a full excavation season from September 23 until November 4.

“We have found a lot of metal-working evidence on the site, lots of houses had huge storage capacities so they were clearly farming very widely and storing their goods for surplus against hard times or for trade,” she said.

Another dig co-director, Margaret Miller, says Zagora is similar to Pompeii – a snapshot in time to a period we know close to nothing about.

“Archaeology so often only deals with royalty and the rich. Here we’re learning about ordinary folk, people like us, and how they lived,” Dr Miller said in a statement.

She said the site challenges stereotypes of what a city must be like.

There are no kitchens in houses, industry isn’t confined to one area, a question-mark hangs over religion and the most important aspect of the settlement appears to be the fort wall.

The dig overlooking the Aegean is sponsored by the Australian Archaeological Institute in Athens (AAIA), the University of Sydney and the Australian Research Council. It is also partly funded by private donations.

Next year’s dig will be directed by what they find this year.

We’ll add the Zagora Archaeological Project’s blog to our list …