Amphipolis skeleton from Alexander's time found in Greece

  • 12 November 2014
  • From the section Europe
The uncovered tomb at Amphipolis, northern Greece Image copyright Greek culture ministry
Image caption A wooden coffin was found inside a limestone tomb below the floor of the third chamber

Archaeologists in northern Greece have found a skeleton inside a tomb from the time of Alexander the Great, during a dig that has enthralled the public.

The burial site at Amphipolis is the largest ever discovered in Greece.

The culture ministry said the almost intact skeleton belonged to a "distinguished public figure", given the tomb's dimensions and lavishness.

Chief archaeologist Katerina Peristeri said "the tomb in all probability belongs to a male and a general".

The excavation has fascinated Greeks ever since Prime Minister Antonis Samaras visited the site in August 2014 and announced it amounted to "an exceptionally important discovery".

The latest revelations have only added to Greek excitement about the identity of the person entombed at Amphipolis.

"It is an extremely expensive construction, one that no single private citizen could have funded," the ministry said at a briefing for reporters on Wednesday. "It is in all probability a monument to a mortal who was worshipped by his society at the time."

Speculation has been rife, with experts raising several possibilities including the deceased being a member of Alexander the Great of Macedon's family or one of his most senior officials.

Image caption A sketch of the tomb

The tomb dates from the late 4th Century BC when Amphipolis was a major city of the Macedonian Kingdom.

The site is located 100km (62 miles) east of Thessaloniki, Greece's second city.

Before the skeleton was found, some experts had suggested the site might be a cenotaph, built in honour of a major figure whose remains were elsewhere.

The limestone tomb was discovered 1.6m (5.2 ft) below the floor of the third chamber of the burial complex. It is 3.23m in length, 1.56m in width and 1.8m in height.

A wooden coffin was placed inside. Archaeologists discovered scattered bronze and iron nails, as well as bone and glass fragments - probably decorations from the casket.

The bone remains and any genetic material will be examined by specialists, the culture ministry said.

"The monument represents a unique and original synthesis," it added.

Earlier stages of the excavation brought to light a magnificent carved stone lion, two sphinxes, two caryatids and a floor mosaic depicting the abduction of Persephone by Hades.

Amphipolis site

  • 437 BC Founded by Athenians near gold and silver mines of Pangaion hills
  • 357 BC Conquered by Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great's father
  • Under Alexander, served as major naval base, from which fleet sailed for Asia
  • 1964 First official excavation began, led by Dimitris Lazaridis

Image copyright Greek culture ministry
Image caption Two sphinxes guard the entrance to the tomb at Amphipolis
Image copyright Greek culture ministry
Image caption A sketch of the tomb shows the two sphinxes at the front and the two caryatids guarding behind
Image copyright AP
Image caption A large mosaic was uncovered recently showing a man with a laurel wreath driving a chariot drawn by horses and led by the god Hermes

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