10.02.2014

Today's Amphipolis News

The MC press release: Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού και Αθλητισμού - Συνέχιση ανασκαφικών εργασιών στον λόφο Καστά στην Αμφίπολη.


They've found a door; it's thus almost certainly a tomb, but the mass of antechambers strongly suggests a heroon linked to the burial.

The door was Thasian marble, a material seen elsewhere in the tomb, and considered of high quality and used elsewhere, not just because it was local.

The 'nail heads' imitated in marble are common on Macedonian tomb doors, and whilst the pattern here does suggest nails, they are sometimes single and larger so can also be interpreted as miniature sarissa shields.

The double row of bosses was in the centre, but what is particularly unusual here is that the door was in two sections and hinged showing that it was designed to open rather than merely be a 'fake' door designed to look like one as seen in most other Macedonian tombs.

Temples had doors that opened and closed, and the tracks can often be easily identified in the blocks beneath, but they tended to be either wood inlaid with ivory or wood covered in bronze.

The openings between the Caryatids and the Sphinxes are exactly 1,67 m. The opening of the third doorway is 1.50 m.

Excavation revealed the continuity of the side walls, namely marble slabs, similar to that present in all areas of the monument.

During the excavation they also found in front of the door, behind the Caryatids, bronze and iron nails. They would like to stress that it is not a given these belonged to the funerary carriage. 

The press release would like to make two general observations:
 

1 As I read in press reports, there is speculation whether the archaeological investigation is in accordance with the excavation process, ie the removal of excavation layers in a systematic way; as is clear from the diaries of the excavation, it is clear that the work is being done in the most appropriate scientific manner.
 
2 On how they are removing the soil from the excavation through the grave, note the following: In order to facilitate the excavation in the safest way they used a conveyor belt to remove the earth, as indeed is customary on other excavations.

Both these points are worth emphasising! 

The people I know at Amphipolis are some of the best archaeologists in the world - I use the generic term archaeologists to include all those working there - and excavate all year, and I would be happy to work again with any of them. 

A lot of "archaeologists" at universities criticising them from their desks do not dig, and have not been on a dig since the start of their careers so whilst their critiques are vaguely amusing if one appreciates irony, they are better described as art historians or armchair archaeologists. Worse, I have seen plenty of 'research' where not only do I know that the person has not seen the sculptures, I can even tell which set of photographs they based their assumptions on. Let's skip the false modesty; I'm competent, the people at Amphipolis know what they're doing, a lot of people in the field are mediocre.

Techniques ... yes, on TV they might use a brush and trowel, and be super-duper careful, but so much TV is fiction. In real life we use equipment, and whilst I am best kept away from bulldozers, I've been on digs where they were used and this is all considered acceptable best practice.


Indiana Jones would have probably grabbed the treasure and rushed out before the building collapsed, crushing the baddies and some woman who had a Germanic name like Olga and had turned out to be treacherous ...

But they are instead using scaffolding to support the roof at Amphipolis.


A few more points from the press release are interesting and worth noting straight away:
I have noted that the embankment is sloped from south to north, with a height difference of over a meter. In the fourth septal wall an opening has been detected, which has also been reported to be of greater depth than previous openings. Technical research leads to the conclusion that the floor of the fourth area is lower than the floor of the previous properties, possibly by two meters. Normally, this indicates the existence of stair or ramp which probably begins after the door frame of the third aperture.
This is something I agree with, but I would be more comfortable if the evidence was released as ... well to me it makes the dating 99.99% certain, but I can understand why those who have not seen it can be more cautious:
Question: Have the new finds of nails and pieces of the door reinforced the dating?
Answer K. Peristeri: When we date the monument to the last quarter of the 4th century BC, we are absolutely sure based on both the enclosure and from our findings. ... a photograph dating is not. The nails do not enrich the dating. We give you information to give you a clear picture. However, not all the material is coming out in a press release.
Although there is Augustan and Roman archaeology at Amphipolis, Peristeri confirmed nothing Augustan was found at this mound. Again, the rest of the site including the unusual Hellenistic gymnasium turned into an Imperial cult has been presented over the last few years, but not yet fully published. (The gym-cult is amazing, in the same way I've been saying Amphipolis was amazing for years ... trust me, I'm an archaeologist).

I was dubious about some of the geo-phys images doing the rounds, and ... again Fight Club Rules apply, but Peristeri has confirmed that the images attributed to Haido Koukoulis-Chrysanthaki were neither sanctioned nor recent nor even of this tomb.

(I think I might have to actually watch this Fight Club movie soon).


There was a large earthquake at Amphipolis in the 6th century AD, and that might have caused the further structural damage.

There was always looting in antiquity, we won't know until they get in there. There is evidence that suggests possible ancient looting, but gosh what a surprise that self-proclaimed Greek looting expert was once again wrong about modern looting (oddly he sees problems with anything I'm involved in, but hey ho).

More to come, and yes I will try to answer questions soon ...





8 comments:

  1. Thank you for this precision. I had not thought in false of nails / shields.

    That think of the fact that the archaeologists declared the last week that the drillings in the fourth chamber had allowed to verify that the depth of the concerned space was superior to 7 metres - because it is the limit of the very drill - but what today, they speak only about a depth of at least 2 metres. It is not in itself contradictory, but all the same a little surprising.

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  2. The door and "nail heads" remind me of a gold Dalek...

    I'm not completely frivolous, all evidence to the contrary....

    Chuck Grantham

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  3. Oh well, lots of Medieval Madonnas seem to be doing the Vulcan Salute ...

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  4. I've heard the Vulcans and the Madonnas swiped that from rabbis. (Round and round we go!)

    Chuck Grantham

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  5. Why seems to have doubts about the time of the break of the doors? If it was looting in antiquity it would be pre-sealed with soil and the remains of the doors would be deposited on the floor of the chamber, if the destruction was caused by an earthquake or bombing more recently the remains would be subject by the soil in the original position more or less. No?

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  6. The mound has been described as consisting of stratified layers of river sand and greenish soil; is there any detail on the number of strata and their depths? Thanks

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  7. Dorothy can you be more specific please about the date of the 6th century
    quake?

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