I was hoping we’d hear more about this find … from eKathimerini:
An ancient tomb along with burial offerings, allegedly belonging to a man who died around the time of Alexander the Great, has been unearthed at the ancient city of Aigai, in northern Greece.
The archaeologist in charge of the excavation at Aigai, Aggeliki Kottaridi, reported the discovery with a message on her Facebook page. She said that the box-shaped Macedonian tomb had not been looted.
“[This is] a pleasant exception since the Aigai necropolis was brutally looted by Gallic mercenaries of Pyrrhus in 276 BC and we rarely have the chance to find undisturbed burials,” she said.
Kottaridi also posted two images from the tomb, one of them depicting a decorated vessel used to mix wine and water at the symposia.
There was some discussion on the Classics list — I’m not sure how serious — that this was a helmet (presumably some sort of pilos type) but this seems to be the gold-plated vessel referred to in the article (that would be an awfully uncomfortable chin strap!). But why is it laying on the floor like this (if unlooted)?
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):
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):
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):
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 couple days later, the Ministry release a really nice little reconstruction sort of thing showing where the finds to this point came from:
Then, on September 11, we were given the ‘full reveal’ of the Karyatids (source):
The wall behind the Karyatids revealed a very nice (it seems) Ionic doorway:
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).
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:
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.
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.
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.
Son of Alexander who was murdered with his mother, Barsine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
… and another:
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).
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):
… 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)
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: