1.28.2015

Amphipolis ...

... look, I had literally refused to go on TV for well over five years as I don't want the "fame" and I only went on Greek TV as I was tired of people who had never been to the site at Amphipolis (Palagia, Chugg) talking crap; I wanted to defend the work of the amazing team who actually are working at Amphipolis.

I also should admit that whilst a book about Amphipolis would be lovely in the long term, I also had never planned to 'rush' to publish one before the archaeologists. I knew a book by me on the market would blow out others' attempts to get advances for a book, and that was my main plan. Also, if a book of mine one day is published and makes money, obviously I would split the profits with the guys there as they did the hard work.

I am happy to try to explain the archaeologists' finds, and try to theorise about them but ... I am currently taking a break as I was close to the CharlieHebdo office and the doctor told me I need to go for a rest. I have had absolutely no news or contact about the excavation finds from the team since the news broke in August - no-one is leaking to me as I gave the few (minor) people who tried hell. Theorise away, just be aware that we are just theorising and discussing possibilities!

Normally excavations are complicated, but the public and press only see the end results. Amphipolis may look a "mess" because unusually here people are seeing the excavation as it goes along. This is normal! As is changing theories as new evidence comes to light ... whoever this turns out to be, it is already the most important find of the century.

Michaelis Lefantzis has been there from the start, he was the one who went looking for bits of the Lion and thus in turn found even more amazing discoveries. Lefantzis is one of the most talented archaeologists (in Greece it's "architect" but in the UK & US we include that within "archaeologists") that I am aware of, not just in Greece but the world. He's the hero of Amphipolis, and the idiots claiming other crap are just that - idiots. Greece voted for change, so let's give Amphipolis a chance to change too.



1.19.2015

CSI: Amphipolis - Murder

One body had old injuries that had healed, the other had so many stab marks on the bones - which went through skin, flesh, muscle and are pretty hard to do with a knife - so there is no doubt in my mind that the younger man was assassinated.


UPDATED Amphipolis: The Bones ... Murder!

Υπουργείο Πολιτισμού και Αθλητισμού - Μελέτη Σκελετικών Καταλοίπων Ταφικού Μνημείου, Λόφου Καστά, Αμφίπολη:
"The bodies of those buried have been distinguished: In a woman (person 1), two middle aged men (people 2 and 3) and a newborn person (4 person)."
The woman in the cist grave, around which the others seem to have been buried, was over 60; Olympias was born circa 370 BC and died in 316, so the maths is wrong for her.

The two men were in their later 30s or earlier 40s, and the younger of the two shows signs of several sharp blows - possibly injuries, more likely murder by stabbing. The older, taller man has an old wrist fracture that has heeled. Interestingly "both men have degenerative osteoarthritis and spondylitis lesions in different parts of their skeletons." - this suggests they could have been related as these are genetic issues.

In addition as Edson noted in his article The Tomb of Olympias, inscriptions show she was buried at Pydna; so Amphipolis could not have been built pre the Battle of Pydna around her earlier tomb there ... you can download the article here.

There are also animal bones (those of the 550 which are not the human 157?) including horses, which further supports the idea of a Macedonian royal burial - way back when everyone was poo-pooing Amphipolis, I asked if there were horse bones or equipment by the entrance, as to me that was a key indicator. 

The skeletons are fragmentary, so we might be missing people, but this many figures is unusual; family mausolea were not the norm at the time.

Philip III Arrhidaeus was murdered and is the right age for one of the men. We know that he died in 317 BC, but was later honourably buried with his wife Eurydice II Adea, whose suicide had been forced and her mother Cynane: Diodorus 19. 52; Athenaeus 4. 41.

Whilst I can't find a source that mentions Adea having a baby, a newborn son could well have been the issue that forced Olympias' hand, and led him to murder them all. Cynane died in 323 and is too young to be the woman buried in the cist grave; her mother Audata vanishes from the records after Philip II, and is assumed to have died but need not have. (Obviously this is just a guess!)

The bottom line is not just any noble could have built this sort of tomb, and the Argead Dynasty had strong ties to Amphipolis for centuries - Alexander I famously defeated the Persians there.

Hephaestion died not stabbed at 32, so has to be excluded. 

Update - the reason I left to Philip III and Eurydice II is that near Amphipolis is where they were kept hostage and probably killed. 

Everything I have seen fits a tomb built the period of Alexander and soon after, but the cremated bodies could have been added later. Cassander honourably buried them, and he married Alexander's half-sister Thessaloniki after Pydna to cement his claim to the throne ... so yes the making a point of honourably burying is odd, but so were the politics of the day!

The uncremated 60+ woman could be the tomb of an "ancestor" such as Deianira from whose child with Heracles the Argeads claimed descent, or another early royal - don't forget the earlier Macedonians were Persian vassals, and practiced certain rituals that differed from other Greek states.

A cremated fifth body is in such a poor state the sex could not be determined, and if it was a woman, Eurydice is a candidate but if she is a separate death then she'd be Cynane.

CORRECTION as he rightly pointed out, I was using an old book and forgot the new source showing Olympias murdered them (Cassander killed Roxane and Alexander IV at the Amphipolis fortress):




UPDATE: also, I sometimes state the conclusion and forget to explain the thought process ... "Aegae" in the sources is possibly two later writers making a mistake / misinterpretation of a lost source that describes a "royal cemetery" or "mausoleum" and an assumption made it was the traditional one at Vergina etc. Ancient sources can be wrong which is why we tend to trust more contemporary inscriptions more ... Athenaeus was around AD 200 and gathered interesting titbits; and Diodorus was Augustan.

1.18.2015

Amphipolis Bones: News Soon

I thought the press conference was scheduled for the 20th, but some on Twitter are saying the results will be released today. This was the previous press release from December is below, and the new one will be here.

Just a quick re-cap: the tomb was constructed at the time of Alexander the Great, and possibly / probably construction continued after his death.

The body found inside seems to have neither been cremated nor mummified; earlier suggestions from the archaeologists suggest that it predates the main body of the tomb. We know that after the Persian Wars Cimon went to find the bones of Theseus so that they could be buried in a shrine to him (probably on the hill over the Agora, the so-called Hephaisteion); whether he took them from a long-known 'tomb' of Theseus or they were random old bones is of course open to question. Alexander adores Achilles, but his tomb is elsewhere in later sources, so we need to look for a suitable hero or ancestor that was thus honoured, and my best guess would be Alexander I who defeated the Persians at Amphipolis and was the first Macedonian king to take part in the Olympics ... but obviously that is just an "educated guess"!

How To Tell a Fake 101


It's a very pretty ring, and when I was in Paris someone Tweeted a photo of this Greek 2nd Century BC ring in the Benaki, and trying to stay positive I RTed it. Almost immediately I thought "no!" ... I undid the RT and made a passing remark that it was interesting that the ancient Greek creator had knowledge of the work of Michelangelo.

Recent events have made me realise too few people spend enough time with originals, and so I thought it might be worth taking the time the explain my thought process.

NSFW ---> PLEASE NOTE I HAVE ADDED A BREAK HERE AS THESE IMAGES OF ANCIENT ART ARE NOT SAFE FOR WORK

1.17.2015

Norwegian Design: Pia Tjelta byTiMo

What feels like the most beautiful dress in the world arrived in the post yesterday ...

I have bought items from By Ti Mo in the past, and am generally rather sceptical when celebrities collaborate with brands, but Norwegian actress Pia Tjelta's designs are simply stunning.

This photo is of the shorter version, the Nº 12 The Vega Dress (note the model is very tall, and one shorter women it would come to above the knee), whilst I bought the floor length white cotton and lace Nº 11 The Helena Dress.