Quick Answers About Amphipolis (Updated)

Who's buried there?

No idea. We won't be certain until the archaeologists can get in, and it very rarely says "X was buried here" in Macedonian tombs - for example at Vergina tombs the identifications are educated deduction.

Could Olympias have been buried at Amphipolis?

Anything is possible, but this is unlikely as there are inscriptions which say she was buried near Pydna.

Is it the tomb of a man?

There remains of an intercolumnar shield have long been attested, so some are claiming that it means it could not have been the tomb of a woman.

This late Hellenistic tomb at Suweida is known from its inscription to have belonged to a woman named Hamrath.

The woman buried in the anti-chamber of Tomb II at Vergina was buried with armour, and may have been a warrior. Several of Phillip II's wives and female descendents are well attested as warriors.

I'll blog about these soon. Ignore the chauvinists!

Macedonian queens seem to have been buried with thrones, but Macedonian rulers were polygamous and had multiple wives; taking a second wife did not imply divorcing the first one, as with the Romans. Often for reasons of status one wife was more important and thus the queen, but this does not mean that the other wives were mistresses or concubines.

Is the dating correct?

Yes. There is extremely good evidence for the date, which is more or less written in stone, if you'll forgive the pun. The archaeologists know what they are doing, and have been working with solid evidence not photos in the press.

If you're looking for an accessible summary to the various royals and dynasties that came after Alexander, I recommend: Daniel Ogden, Polygamy, Prostitutes and Death: The Hellenistic Dynasties, Cardiff 2010: available in libraries, Amazon UK, Amazon US etc.

Philip's wives and Alexander's sisters, etc, I'll cover in a post soon. 

Was the tomb looted?

Again we have to wait and see. The destruction of the superstructure may or may not be contemporary to the filling in of the tomb. Sculpture parts were found in an ancient context not a modern loot context, which dates their damage to antiquity. 

The 'hole' shown as 'proof' of modern looting is ... well, the block that fits the hole clearly fell outwards ... so unless the chap buried was resurrected, and pushed it on his way out ... claims that the tomb was recently looted are scaremongering.

I'd say by people jealous of the amazing archaeologists that found this tomb. The Lion Tomb at Amphipolis is this century's Tomb of Tutankhamun, so there are a lot of odd claims being made about it by people envious of the team.

Quick update:

a) any mistakes are my own - so blame me, not the brilliant excavators.

b) I do think it's simply the most amazing discovery of my lifetime, and if I could have described to someone what I wanted them to find, it would be this. I am so thrilled to see how enthusiastic people in Greece are about it, and that's why I'm trying to explain the finds - there's a lot of back-stabbing in academia, and I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see people genuinely thrilled and interested in archaeology.

but most importantly

c) whilst I am happy to explain the finds in blog posts, please remember that it is the amazing team working on the site - they know all this 'stuff' I'm blogging, and they will do a wonderful publication in due course, just as they have done some amazing presentations. I know several of them, and I have a very low threshold for mediocrity so believe me that they are very very good at their jobs. 

d) but at the moment they are very busy doing the actual digging, in almost ridiculously unheard of pressure conditions - conditions I would not dig under - and you have to give them time to analyse the data and finds. 

e) please don't send me emails about finds not out in the press releases - if I wanted to know, I could ask them, and I don't want to blog anything they are not ready for people to know.


  1. But if the Tomb has been plundered in ancient times, why having filled-it back? Do the looters usually fill the graves after having plundered it?

  2. One popular question circulating around the greek media or websites is how a monument of such scale is not mentioned in any of our available historical sources. I assume maybe some sources at lost, but Strabo's mention of Amphipolis for instance, reveals no clue for a grand monument. Does this tell us it was already hidden from view by Strabo's time? Otherwise, do we have examples of monuments with a similar scale and from approximately same time period (or later) that were unreferenced until archaeological digs revealed them?

    Thanks again for your time.

  3. My modest hypothesis: as You say, the block that fits the hole of the second septal wall clearly fell outwards and You can see it on the first pictures which were took when it was discovered. This block was torn away, so the theory of the filling of sand with deliberately opened holes does not thus seem to me very credible. But if it is about a hole made by a looter, it is necessarily the looter who visited the grave after it had been filled with sand because he was able to dig the hole only by crawling over the filling level. But as the grave was filled with sand after the damages on statues are made, then this grave was plundered at least twice: the first time by the soldiers of Mac├ędonicus, the second after Macedonicus has, for motives which we do not know still, decided to seal it again.


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