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Amphipolis Excavation: Discoveries in Alexander the Great-Era Tomb Dazzle the World Archaeology news Robin Ngo • 01/22/2015
The Amphipolis excavation has revealed the remains of five individuals buried in the tomb, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports announced. Photo: Courtesy Hellenic Ministry of Culture/Athena.
The remains of at least five individuals have been identified from the Amphipolis Tomb in northern Greece, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports recently announced. Dating to the time of legendary Macedonian king Alexander the Great, the mound complex has been making headlines around the world since August 2014, when archaeologists first entered the complex. Since then, the Ministry of Culture has been gradually releasing to the public the incredible archaeological finds that have been uncovered in what is the largest tomb ever found in Greece. Analysis of the human bone fragments from the Amphipolis excavation has determined that the remains belong to a woman over age 60, a newborn baby of indeterminate gender, two men between 35 and 45 and an adult of indeterminate gender and age. This latter adult was cremated before burial, unlike the other four individuals buried in the Amphipolis Tomb. The younger of the two adult men appears to have died of a stab wound. Further tests will be conducted to determine if the individuals are related to one another.
The vast Amphipolis Tomb is protected by a marble surrounding wall one-third of a mile in circumference. Photo: Courtesy The Greek Reporter.
It has been popularly speculated that the Amphipolis Tomb was built for one of Alexander’s generals or family members—perhaps his mother, Olympias, or his wife, Roxanne. After Alexander’s death, his generals fought over control of the Macedonian Empire, which stretched from the Balkans to what’s now Pakistan and northwest India. Alexander’s mother, wife, son and half-brother were murdered during this time—most near Amphipolis. It’s still not clear for whom the magnificent tomb was built and why the five individuals were buried in the tomb. Located 62 miles northeast of Thessaloniki, Amphipolis was founded as an Athenian colony in 437 B.C.E. and conquered by Philip II of Macedon, Alexander’s father, in 357 B.C.E. The Amphipolis Tomb is believed to have been built between 325 and 300 B.C.E. Alexander died in 323 B.C.E. at the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II in Babylon. According to ancient sources, as Alexander’s funeral cart was making its way to its destination, one of the Macedonian generals, Ptolemy, seized his body and buried it in Memphis in Egypt. Alexander was subsequently laid to rest in Alexandria in the late fourth or early third century B.C.E.
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The head of one of the sphinxes that guards the entrance to the Amphipolis Tomb was discovered in one of the tomb’s chambers. Photo: Courtesy Hellenic Ministry of Culture/Athena.
In the 1950s, Greek archaeologist Dimitris Lazaridis began excavating at Casta Hill in Amphipolis. He surmised that an important burial complex was located in the hill but was not able to complete his excavation. Archaeologist Katerina Peristeri resumed investigations at Casta Hill in 2012. In August 2014, the archaeological team led by Peristeri located the entrance to the tomb. The massive Amphipolis Tomb in Casta Hill is protected by a surrounding wall measuring one-third of a mile in circumference and built of marble from the nearby island of Thassos. At the entrance to the tomb, the archaeologists excavated two sphinxes. Ongoing excavations have discovered three vaulted chambers, in which were found two 12-foot-tall caryatids (pillars sculpted in the shape of females), a floor mosaic depicting the abduction of Persephone by Hades, decorative white marble and frescoed walls and coins depicting Alexander the Great.
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