Archaeologists say they've had a peek inside another room in a monumental ancient tomb in Greek Macedonia that is believed to date back to the era of Alexander the Great.
The ongoing excavations at the Kasta Hill burial mound in Amphipolis -- about 65 miles (104 kilometers) east of Thessaloniki -- have generated excitement and speculation over what (and whom) archaeologists might find inside.
The latest images, released by the Greek Ministry of Culture yesterday (Sept. 14), show an arched, soil-filled room, with some traces of red paint on the limestone walls. The chamber lies beyond beyond the two female statues known as caryatids that were uncovered last week. [See Photos of the Alexander-Era Tomb Excavation]
The Kasta Hill tomb is enclosed by an enormous wall whose perimeter measures 1,600 feet (490 meters). In August, archaeologists revealed two broken sphinxes at the entrance to the burial complex. Over the past several weeks, they've been removing soil and walls of heavy sealing stones to probe deeper into the tomb. They've discovered mosaic floors, and last week, the team uncovered the wavy-haired caryatids - statues that take the place of columns or pillars - standing guard at the second doorway.
The archaeologists, led by Katerina Peristeri, have said they believe the tomb dates back to the late fourth century B.C. and has the characteristics of a work by Dinocrates, Alexander the Great's chief architect. But excavators are unlikely to find the body of Alexander the Great himself; historical records indicate he was buried in Alexandria, though his body has never been found.
"This is an ongoing excavation; much more will be discovered as the excavation goes forward," Beth Carney, a history professor at Clemson University, told Live Science in an email. Carney, who is not involved in the excavation, said the tomb seems remarkable for its huge circumference and carved portals, but she isn't sure what evidence the archaeologists have for a late fourth century B.C. date.
The date of the tomb could prove important if archaeologists find bones inside that are tough to identify. Archaeologists have quarreled for decades over the identity of a couple buried in the lavish Macedonian tomb at Vergina in northern Greece, near the site of the early capital of the Kingdom of Macedonia. When Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos opened the grave (dubbed Tomb II) at Vergina in 1977, he claimed to have found the resting place of Alexander's father, Philip II, a powerful leader in his own right who paved the way for his son's conquests before he was assassinated in 336 B.C. But others have suggested that the tomb actually belonged to Philip III Arrhidaeus, Alexander's (perhaps mentally disabled) half-brother, who was executed in 317 B.C. after a less successful reign.
"The dating of all Macedonian-type tombs is contested, thanks in good part to the controversy about the date of Tomb II at Vergina," Carney said. "Ten or 20 years could make a big difference in the range of possibilities. I am guessing so far [the date for the tomb] is on the basis of stylistic similarity."
Original article on Live Science.
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