Fascination Over The Amphipolis Tomb

Two large stone sphinxes are seen under a barrel-vault topping the entrance to an ancient tomb under excavation at Amphipolis in northern Greece. (AP Photo/Culture Ministry, HO)

NEW YORK – “CSI: Alexander” is what the New York Times call the months-long fascination with the excavations if the large ancient tomb in in Amphipolis in Macedonia that yielded remarkable artwork – sphinxes, caryatids and mosaics – and finally, bones from the time if Alexander the Great.

“Is it possible — as culture officials implied with a wink and a nod but never actually stated — that the tomb could be for the family of Alexander the Great? Archaeologists say it’s highly unlikely. But that’s hardly the point. By the time the Culture Ministry announced this week that the bones of five people, not one, had been found in the tomb, it was the latest episode in an archaeological reality show that has entertained and distracted Greeks from their economic troubles,” the Times reported.

Enthusiasts and historians around the world have been following with bated breath, and even Greek politics was stirred by the ongoing investigation.  Prime Minister Antonis Samaras visited Amphipolis and summer and later showed Angela Merkel artifacts from the site.

“It’s a kind of positing of national pride, but also nationalist connotations and feelings,” Yannis Hamilakis, a professor of archaeology at the University of Southampton, in England, and the author of The Nation and Its Ruins: Antiquity, Archaeology, and National Imagination in Greece told the Times.

“While acknowledging that the tomb is a significant find that deserves public enthusiasm, Mr. Hamilakis and other archaeologists argue that the dig has been conducted hastily and in a way that places popular appeal over serious scholarship. The Greek news media have thrived on the story — a rare bright spot in a cycle dominated by austerity and unemployment. Archaeology buffs have taken to the blogosphere, floating their own theories. Last year, “Amphipolis” was the most popular search term on Google in Greece,” the Times reported.

Busloads of tourists can only view the site from far away and the Culture Ministry is carefully overseeing the project.

The remainder of the Times’s article, written by Rachel Donadio with contributions by Menelaos Tzafalias from Athens, can be read on this link: