Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Other Macedonian Tombs of Ampipolis

The Macedonian type tombs of Amphipolis, although more than fifty years have passed since their discovery, remain unknown to the wider public.

By Aris Mendizis

Source: Χρονόμετρο, 26.10.2014 (Translated by A.M.)

Accross from the eastern side of the ancient city of Amphipolis, on the first slopes of the sacred mountain of antiquity, mount Pangeum, another six Macedonian tombs of excellent quality were discovered and excavated by Demetrios Lazaridis, giving much and useful information about this great urban centre of antiquity.

These Macedonian type tombs are six in number and are situated just south of the Hellenistic cemetery, where the same archaeologist excavated over 400 tombs, and North-West of the ancient walls. In his book on Aphipolis, the excavator Demetios Lazaridis, gives much information about six of these funerary constructions, showing that they were special at the time of their creation.

The arched corridor of the Tomb no 1

Macedonian Tomb 1

Concerning the "Macedonian Tomb 1", as it was named , it was discovered in 1960 and is covered by an artificial mound. It is comprised of an arched corridor 5.30 m in length and 1.60 m wide, an antechamber and a main chamber Unfortunately in this tomb the ceiling has caved in over the antechamber and the main chamber. It is worth noting that the total length of this tomb is 11.30 m and, up to the discovery of the funerary construction in the "Kastas" hill, it was the largest known tomb of Amphipolis. On the right hand side of the antechamber there is a funerary litter built of limestone blocks. In the main chamber a further two such beds were found at a right angle to each other. These two litters were covered in lime stucco decorated in bright colours. On the legs of the bed and on its upper part, according to D. Lazaridis, Dionysian figures are depicted, seated on rocks or reclining on the ground holding thyrsoi, small lions, altars etc. Rosettes and various other geometric, for the most part, shapes cover the legs of the beds.

The funerary biers of Macedonian Tomb 1, as they were exhibited in the Kavala Museum.
The offerings that accompanied the dead woman in this  tomb were rich. They included two large gold rings with coloured stones that bear engraved figures, a gold wreath of olive-leaves, flowers and leaves made of gold-leaf, a pair of golden ear-rings that end in lionheads, a golden obol [sic] bearing the head of Hercules in a lion skin, a silver mirror, various pots and a pyxis. The paintings on the beds were recorded and then transported to the Museum of Kavala, where they were exhibited until a few years ago, in a representation of a funerary chamber in the Amphipolis hall. This important tomb, according to its excavator, is dated to the 3rd century B.C.

Macedonian Tomb 2

Close to the previous tomb, to the south-east another Macedonian Tomb was discovered in 1961, below a tumulus. This tomb is built with lime blocks and comprises of a corridor of 6.28 m length and 1.36 m. width and of a funerary chamber measuring 3.06 m X 3.08 m covered with an arched ceiling. Part of the corridor is also covered with limestone slabs.

In the funerary chamber one can enter via an entrance 1.25 m wide. On the western and the northern side there are funerary litters forming a right angle, made of limestone blocks. Unfortunately the were partially destroyed by grave-diggers who violated the tomb. From the few ceramic finds that were discovered on the floor of the chamber, the tomb is probably to be dated to the second half of the 3rd century BC.

The entrance and corridor of Macedonian Tomb 2

The covered corridor and the entrance to the funerary chamber of Macedonian Tomb 2.
Macedonian Tomb 3

Yet another especially important tomb of the Macedonian type, which is situated on the "Kastas" Hill, which has lately come into the limelight. Despite all the interest however, few know that on this hill a second, albeit smaller, Macedonian tomb is to be found.

This tomb was discovered in 1960, during extensive research carried out by D. Lazaridis on the hill, but unfortunately it had been opened and partially destroyed. This tomb comprises of an antechaber and a funerary chhaber and is 9m long and 3.07 m wide. It is dated to the 3rd century BC.

It was carved into the lining rock and its walls are covered with limestone blocks, of which only the lower row is preserved. The lower parts of the walls are covered in plaster mimicking marble slabs.

It is interesting that the floor of the antechamber was covered with a mosaic decorated with multicolour lozenges, while the floor of the main chamber was separeted into three zones of deep red and yellow colour. On the northern part the floor had been broken to create a second tomb apart from the first tomb which was situated on the far wall of the main chamber. The walls of the two tombs were covered in brightly coloured plaster, such as red, yellow, black, white etc, while in one of them there was a decoration of flowers, plants, birds, vases etc. The mosaic and the wall-paintings were removed to be preserved.
The Mosaic Floor of Macedonian Tomb 3
Macedonian Tomb 4

It is worth noting the near this tomb yet another Macedonian type tomb was discovered, in which many pyxis were discovered, as well as two ceramic statuettes, various bronze and glass objects and a gold ring.

Macedonian Tomb 5, aka "Tomb of the Doctor"

On the eastern outer side of the walls of Amphipolis, near the little church of Agios Nikolaos, another cemetery of the late Hellenistic and Roman period was located in 1959. In it another tomb of the Macedonian Type was unearthed, dating to the Roman period.

It comprises of a corridor 3 m long and a funerary chamber measuring 2.55 m X 3.55 m, in the three walls of which five alcoves are to be found. On the lintel of the tomb an inscription was discovered mentionaing that it was the tomb of the doctor Sextus Iulius Haritonos (Σέξτου Ιουλίου Χαρίτωνος) and is dated to 74 AD.

Macedonian Tomb 6

In the cemetery to the North-West of ancient Amphipolis D. Lazaridis discovered yet another Macedonian Type tomb in 1960, which comprises of a corridor 5.30 m in length and 1.58 m wide, and a funerary chamber measuring 2.90 m X 3.08 m. Its entrance was sealed with a rough wall of limestone blocks.

In the floor of the corridor, at a distance of 2.15 m from the entrance, a circular hole of unknown use was discovered, having a diameter of 55 cm and a depth of 40 cm. In the tomb six burials were discovered. The four where on the floor and two in alcoves that had been made for this purpose. Among the finds were vases; two strigils, a pair of gold ear-rings, a gold ring, a glass multicoloured vase, a bronze mirror etc. The tomb is dated by the excavator to the middle Hellenistic period.

The sealed entrance of the Macedonian Tomb 6, as found during excavation

Sources of teh Photographs: 
Photographs 1,2,3,4 : Δ. Λαζαρίδη, Αμφίπολις, Εκδόσεις Ταμείου Αρχαιολογικών Πόρων και Απαλλοτριώσεων, Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού, Αθήνα 1993 [D. Lazaridis, Amphipolis, Ministry of Culture, Athens 1993.]
Photographs 5,6 : Δ. Λαζαρίδη, «Ανασκαφαί και έρευναι Αμφιπόλεως», Πρακτικά της εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογικής Εταιρίας, Απόσπασμα του έτους 1960, Αθήνα 1965 [D. Lazaridis, "Excavations and Researches of Amphipolis", Praktika of the Archaeological School in Athens, 1960, Athens 1965.]

Monday, 27 October 2014

Wooden Statue Discovered in Piraeus!

A wooden statue of a male figure was found in the excavations that are being carried out for the extension of line 3 of the Athens Metro, in Agios Konstantinos Square of Piraeus.

Specifically, according to the announcement of the Ministry of Culture, the archaeological exploration of the ancient wells that were located in the Station "Demotiko Theatro" which is still under construction, on the Agios Konstantinos Square. In one of them, at a depth of 14,17 m, "was discovered and recovered a wooden sculpture in the round, of a dressed male figure".

The statue was located in contact with the northern wall of the well. At the same point parts of ceramic vessels dated to the end of the Hellenistic period (100-85 BC) were discovered, along with other remnants of living quarters (tiles, metal objects and small bits of wood). At approximately the same depth as the wooden sculpture, part of a marble sculpture was discovered (possibly Artemis) sitting on the back of a deer.

The wooden sculpture misses the head and the upper and lower extremities. Its greatest preserved height is 0,47 m and width 0,21 m. The figure is shown standing with a slight walking movement, as can be seen from the counterpoised legs: the right is bent forward, while the left stretched to the rear. The figure wears a short chiton and has its elbows bent at waist height, with hands outstretched.

The sculpture was immediately transported to the conservation laboratory of the 26th Ephorate following the current rules for the safe transportation of antiquities.

Source: Ta NEA, 21/10/2014 (translated by A.M.)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Mosaics from Amphipolis (Kastas Toumba)

Although not yet fully uncovered - and the excavators not having released their thoughts on the find - we believe the image is another "Rape of Persephone". Remember the wall-painting in Tomb A of the Great Tumulus of Vergina, with the same imagery: Hermes running in front of the horses pulling Hades' chariot...

So probably here we have another rendering - in mosaic this time - of the famous lost work of Nikomachus of Thebes.

On a side note: the geometric sceme around the central composition is closely comparable to that of the rape of Helen by Theseus on the mosaic in the house at Pella. It is interesting that this last is dated to 325-300 BC.
The Pella mosaic.
Proto Thema, 12/10/2014

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Mesolakia (Amphipolis) Tumba Kasta: Update (III)

Please click on image
Some new finds from the second chamber of the Kasta Tomb.

Representation of the Tomb placing the photographs published thus far, by the architect M. Lefantzis

Satellite image of the Tomb (Google)
Seismic imaging of the tomb from older research
Third area

Slab from the ceiling in the third area (behind Caryatids)

Ceiling decoration in the area behind the Caryatids

The Western Caryatid

The Eastern Caryatid. The damaged face has led many to the conclusion that the tomb has been looted (the looters having removed the arms of the Caryatids and the face of one of them as well as the head of the Sphinxes). It would be best to wait for the end of the excavations before jumping to conclusions. Already some fingers and other fragments of the hands of the Caryatids have been discovered, as have been parts of the wings of the sphinxes. Personally I have yet to see conclusive evidence that the tomb has been looted.

Kathimerini, 07.09.2014, http://www.kathimerini.gr/781187/interactive/epikairothta/ellada/vhma-vhma-h-anaskafh-ths-amfipolhs#firstPage for a timeline of the excavation and excellent photographs
Proto Thema, 07.09.2014,  http://www.protothema.gr/culture/article/408014/apokalufthikan-duo-karuatides-stin-amfipoli/

Proto Thema, 09.09.2014, http://www.protothema.gr/culture/article/408631/amfipoli-/
Proto Thema, 09.09.2014, http://www.protothema.gr/culture/article/408641/amfipoli-horis-sunora-doruforikes-eikones-apo-ti-google-maps/
Proto Thema, 09.09.2014, http://www.protothema.gr/greece/article/408409/i-seismiki-tomografia-tou-tumvou-/
Kathimerini, 09.09.2014, http://www.kathimerini.gr/783089/article/epikairothta/ellada/anaparastash-zwntaneyei-ton-tymvo-ths-amfipolhs

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Opening Hours of Museums and Archaeological Sites in Greece

I will try and update this as often as possible. If you find any information that is erroneous, please let me know. Please verify the information BEFORE visiting the site!

NOTE: Unless otherwise stated:  
Winter: From the 1st of November 2013 until the 31st of March 2014
Summer: From April 1st, 2014

  • Acropolis of Athens, Theatre of Dionysus (Acropolis South Slope), Ancient Agora of Athens: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • National Archaeological Museum, Athens: From Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 Archaeological Site of Olympieion, Athens: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 
  • Benaki Museum, Main Building: Wed., Fr.: 9:00 - 17:00; Thur., Sat.: 9.00 - 24.00; Sun: 9:00 - 15:00
  • Benaki Museum, Pireos St. Annexe: Thur., Sun.: 10:00 - 18:00; Fri., Sat.: 10:00 - 22:00
  • Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 
  • Kerameikos: Monday-Sunday: 08.00-20.00

Rest of Attica
  • Archaeological Site of Sounio: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00

  • Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • White Tower, Thessaloniki: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 
  • Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Royal Tombs of Aigai (Vergina): Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00

  • Archaeological Site of Epidaurus: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Archaeological Site of Mycenae: Winter: 08:00-15:00: Summer: 8:00-20:00.
  • Archaeological Site of Olympia: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 
  • Museum of Ancient Olympia: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Archaeological Site of Mystras: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Palamidi Fortress, Nafplion: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 
  • Archaeological Site of Ancient Messene: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Museum of Ancient Messene: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00

  • Archaeological Site of Delphi: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Archaeological Museum of Delphi: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Archaeological Site of Delos: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Archaeological Site of Akrotiri, Santorini: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Sanctuary of Asklepios on Kos: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 
  • Castle of Neratzia, Kos: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Archaeological Site of Lindos, Rhodes: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 
  • Archaeological Site of Kameiros, Rhodes: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 
  • Archaeological Museum of Rhodes: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Palace of the Knights, Rhodes: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 
  • Acropolis of Ialyssos, Rhodes: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Archaeological Site of Ancient Corinth: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Archaeological Site of Knossos, Crete: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 
  • Archaeological Site of Phaistos, Crete: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 
  • Psychro Cave, Lassithi, Crete: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Spinalonga Islet: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 
  • Archaeological Museum of Heraklion, Crete: Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00
  • Old Fortress of Corfu:  Summer: 7/7 - 08:00-20:00 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Mesolakia (Amphipolis) Tumba Kasta: Photos of the Monument

Entrance with sphinxes

Decoration of second protective wall

Second protective wall (behind entrance)
Mosaic floor of entrance

Proto Thema, 31.08.2014; here

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Amphipolis: Toumba Kasta revisited (and visited by the PM Samaras...)

Map of Macedonia marking principal sites and the marble quarry of Aliki on the island of Thasos (made with Google Earth).

Once again Greek media are publishing information concerning the Toumba Kasta located near the village of Mesolakkia, to the North-East of ancient Amphipolis. We have already discussed this important funerary monument a couple of years ago. In summary the archaeological data is as follows:

a. An enclosure (perivolos wall) of almost 500 m. diameter (497 m to be exact), unique among Macedonian tombs.
b. Two statues of Sphinxes, on either side of the door, which was served by a large (4.5 m wide) dromos (road)
c. The "Lion of Amphipolis", of a height of 5.25 m itself, is now, apparently, definetly attributed (by the architect mr Lefantzis) to this monument, its original position being at the summit of the tumulous.
d. According to mrs Peristeri, the excavator of the site, the monument "bears the signature of the famous architect and friend of Alexander, Deinokrates". It is not clear from the Greek statement whether this means that an inscription bearing the name if Deinokrates has been discovered, or whether it means that the monument is in his style...
e. Mrs Peristeri dates the monument to "the last quarter of the 4th century", i.e. 325-300.
f. The marble used for the perivolos comes from the neighbouring island of Thasos, and specifically the quarry of Aliki (Αλύκη). This means that the large blocks were transported by sea, an expensive and difficult operation.

It should be noted that the first archaeological excavations were carried out by Dimitris Lazaridis between 1965 and 1985; excavations restarted in 2009.

The PM Antonios Samaras being guided around the site (photos: Ptoto Thema)

Views of the perivolos of the Toumba Kasta published in Greek media.

The "Lion of Amphipolis" as it stands today. It is said to be the sema of the tomb, having stood on the summit of the tumulous.

Parts of the monument have been known since 1912, when Greek troops sent a report mentioning the lion and parts of its base. The lion itself had various adventures during the 20th century, being moved a number of times, including by British troops in 1916 who tried to smuggle it out of the country, but whose attempt was foiled by impudent Bulgarian troops, who seemed to believe that fighting a war was more important than enriching the collection of the British Museum...

In all the visit of the Greek PM, Antonios Samaras, to the site and his declaration that it is "an extremely important find", has excited all sort of speculation.

Using existing data we can postulate the following hypotheses:

1. The tomb was meant for the body of Alexander, but was left empty as the body was hijacked by Ptolemy and buried in Alexandria, Egypt. This would be consistent with the narrative of ancient sources.

2. The tomb belonged to members of Alexander's family (Roxane, Alexander IV).

3. The tomb belonged to a member of Alexander's court, a close collaborator, general etc. Candidates here would include the admiral Leosthenes of Mytelene and the admiral Laomedon, a long-time friend of Alexander (who had been exiled by Philip II for plotting with Alexander to overthrow him, and who, for a short time was one of Alexander's successors).

4. A number of archaeologists and historians have advances a number of arguments against the attribution of the great tomb at Vergina to Philip II. If they are right, and the Vergina tomb is to be attributed to, say, Alexander IV, then the tomb of Philip has yet to be found. Given the size and apparent splendour of this tomb, as well as its approximate dating, would allow us to postulate that Alexander might have ordered his architect Deinokrates to build his illustrious father a fitting final resting place. The problem with this thought is, of course, once again that the tomb is NOT at Vergina, i.e. the royal cemetery...

5. The tomb belonged to Alexander himself. This is the most unlikely scenario. Not only does it go against the information of ancient sources that state that Alexander's body was taken to Alexandria and preserved in a special tomb that was accessible to special visitors (several Roman Emperors have been recorded as having visited the site and viewed the body), but it is also hard to believe that such an important monument would have been  pillaged during the Roman era, and material from it taken and used for other purposes as apparently happened.

Anyway, the good news is that the digs will continue, as fresh funding of 100.000 Euros has just been announced. Lets be patient and see what shall be revealed from this uncontestedly magnificent monument!

  • Archaiologia.gr, 01.04.2013, "Το Λιοντάρι της Αμφίπολης αγναντεύει την αρχική του θέση στον Τύμβο Καστά", here
  • Dimokratia, 01.09.2013, "Το μυστικό του τάφου και τα «σφραγισμένα» τείχη της Αμφίπολης!", here.
  • Kathimerini, 12.08.2014, "Σαμαράς: "Εξαιρετικά σημαντικό εύρημα" στην Αμφίπολη", here.
  • Proto Thema, 12.08.2013, "Σαμαράς από Αμφίπολη: «Είμαστε μπροστά σε ένα εξαιρετικά σημαντικό εύρημα», here
  •  Proto Thema, 12.08.2013, "Ο τάφος της Αμφίπολης: Τα στοιχεία που τον κάνουν μοναδικό", here.
  • Proto Thema, 12.08.2013, "Δείτε εντυπωσιακές φωτογραφίες από τα ευρήματα στην Αμφίπολη", here
  • Proto Thema, 20.08.2014, "Στο φως οι Σφίγγες της Αμφίπολης 2.300 χρόνια μετά", here.