Wednesday 10 September 2014

The excavations in Amphipoli

Excitement is growing in Greece as the excavations in Amphipoli are proceeding with new discoveries being made every day.

Archaeologists, led by Katerina Peristeri, have unearthed a burial site in Casta in ancient Amphipolis which has been dated to the last quarter of the fourth century BC and which reportedly bears the signature of famous ancient architect Dinocrates a close friend of Alexander the Great. This was the period immediately following the death of Alexander in 323 BC. They believe the tomb belonged to an important figure and even though some hope that this is Alexander's grave, this is probably unlikely.

The tomb consists of foundations, supporting columns, a top part and decorations of white marble from Thassos. It measures 497m across, with a wall that is 3m high. Although it is almost a complete circle carved in marble, it is built in levels similar to the way an Egyptian pyramid is built.

There is a strong suggestion that the 5m high Lion of Amphipoli, discovered in fragments in the early 20th century, originally crowned the burial mound. The Lion now stands next to an old bridge over Strymonas river.

Speculation as to who was buried in this distinguished tomb is rife. Mrs Peristeri believes that it's most likely Alexander's widow, the Bactrian princess Roxane and his posthumous son Alexander IV, both seen as a threat by Alexander's successor who had both of them murdered there in 309 BC.

The entrance to the tomb is guarded by two headless sphinxes, also carved from marble.

a closer look


The most exciting find was discovered two days ago: two splendid caryatid statues, sporting long-sleeved tunics and curly hair falling onto their shoulders. The left arm of one and the right arm of the other are raised in a symbolic gesture to push away anyone who would try to violate the tomb.

There is hope among archaeologists and people in Greece that the tomb is untouched with all its treasures intact and that its secrets will be revealed.


  1. How exciting! Archaeology is such a fascinating subject for those of us who do not have to brush the earth centimetre by centimetre; but get to enter into the speculations and marvel at the results. I remember the buzz when the Vergina discoveries were made, and have myself signed up to try a few online archaeology courses/classes/expositions this autumn.
    I look forward to hearing more about this mysterious tomb in Amphipoli.

    1. Very exciting indeed and I can't wait to see what else gets discovered. There is an added incentive to getting the paper every morning.

      My best memory re-excavations and discoveries was over Santorini, a long time ago, now. When Marinatos made his discoveries, a few select archaeologists were the first people to be invited to go and explore, and my father was one of them. When he and my mother came back, she told me everything in great detail, and I remember almost all of it as if it was yesterday. That was such an exciting time.

      I am intrigued about the courses/classes you have signed up for, and would love to know more about them - I hope you'll blog about it.