A year on, no answers to ancient Greek tomb mystery
A year after being hailed as one of Greece’s greatest archaeological finds and a possible resting place of Alexander the Great, the largest tomb ever discovered in the country lies almost forgotten in the blazing summer sun.
Greece: A year after being hailed as one of Greece’s greatest archaeological finds and a possible resting place of Alexander the Great, the largest tomb ever discovered in the country lies almost forgotten in the blazing summer sun.
The buzz of cicadas and wasps gives no hint that Amphipolis, some 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the northern city of Serres, drew a media stampede in August 2014 after authorities declared it a “unique” find.
“No one works here anymore. The project is frozen, like everything else in Greece,” says a young guard, referring to the country’s economic crisis that in addition to mass layoffs and revenue cuts has also hit spending on cultural projects.
“We still don’t know if the country is going to run out of money,” he adds, refusing to give his name.
At the time of its discovery, there was speculation that archaeologists had found the tomb of Alexander the Great (356 BC to 323 BC) – or perhaps someone close to him like his mother Olympias or wife Roxana.
But a room-by-room search of the massive box-like tomb has failed to give conclusive answers to date.
Though the remains of an elderly woman were found – raising hopes it could be Alexander’s mother – the bones of two men, a new-born baby and animals including a horse were also discovered.
Out of 550 bone fragments found, 157 had been matched to specific bodies so far – including that of a fifth person whose sex has not been identified.
Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis has publicly criticised the previous conservative administration over its handling of the excavation. “The way the excavation was carried out and (its) promotion...had elements of a show,” Xydakis said in a televised interview in March.
On Tuesday, the ministry said significant sums of money and time would be required to make the monument accessible to visitors.
“The work required to protect, rehabilitate and highlight the monument is enormous,” it said.
The ministry said 200,000 euros (RM896,000) had been earmarked after the excavation work was carried out, but the imposition of capital controls in June linked to the economic crisis has delayed the release of funds.
As the scientific world awaits further clarification, a dispute has arisen over whether the tomb is actually Macedonian or was built under the Romans.