February 12, 2006
Greeks Find Largest Macedonian Tomb of Nobles
By Deborah Kyvrikosaios
ATHENS -- Greek archaeologists said on Sunday they had discovered the largest underground tomb in Greek antiquity in the ancient city of Pella in northern Greece, birthplace of Alexander the Great.
The eight-chamber tomb rich in painted sculpture dates to the Hellenistic period between the 3rd and 2nd century BC and offers scholars a rare glimpse into the life of nobles around the time of Alexander's death.
"This is the largest, sculptured, multi-chambered tomb found in Greece, and is significant in that it is a new architectural style -- there are many chambers and a long entrance arcade," the chief archaeologist at Pella, Maria Akamati, told Reuters.
Akamati said that the tomb, accessible through a 16-meter long entrance, was uncovered in an agricultural plot bordering the ancient cemetery of the capital city of the Macedonian kingdom.
Until now, the largest chambered funeral tomb found in Greece contained up to three chambers.
Intact, inscribed tombstones, with the names of the owners still visible, and a vast array of rich artifacts including jewelry, copper coins and earthen vases, led archaeologists to the conclusion that the tomb belonged to a noble family.
"This was a very rich family. This is rare as the cemetery is full of plebeians (commoners)," said Akamati. "We actually learned the names of the owners from the tombstones."
Akamati said at least seven to eight family members had been buried in the chambers, but the tomb had most likely been plundered over generations as luxury personal artifacts were missing.
But the painted plaster of the chambers, with red, blue and white dyes, was still evident on the walls, said Akamati.
The ancient city of Pella was part of the Macedonian kingdom, ruled by Phillip of Macedon, and later by his son Alexander the Great, where he was born in 356 BC and spent his childhood years before setting off to conquer the known world.
The tomb dates to the period after Alexander's death, Akamatis said, which was marked by mass power struggles and intrigues by the royal family and Alexander's generals battling for control of his empire.