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SYRIZA Closes Off Funding for Amphipolis Archaeological Study

March 21, 2018

ATHENS – The ruling Radical Left SYRIZA has effectively shut down the delayed digging at the Amphipolis site where archaeologists were looking for clues about Alexander the Great in northern Greece, letting a proposed contract expire without releasing the funds.

In 2015, some 236,000 euros ($400,256) for a two-year anthropological study was set aside but never acted on and the newspaper Kathimerini said it had learned the contract was allowed to run out last summer.

The anti-nationalist SYRIZA, which isn’t fighting for the return of the stolen Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum and wants to let the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) keep the name of Greece’s province Macedonia in a new composite, had said the archaeological dig was of no consequence even though researchers said it could provide important details about Alexander’s time in the area. The party believes Greek treasures don’t belong to Greece, but to the world.

The study was to have involved an analysis of some 1,000 bone fragments found in the broader Amphipolis area. Scientists were then to try to match them to the five skeletons discovered inside the 4th Century BC tomb. Experts have so far only conducted a macroscopic survey of the skeletal material found inside the grave.

During several sensational finds the dig attracted worldwide attention, especially in the archaeological community and was widely touted by the then-ruling New Democracy Conservatives under former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

It is not known when or even if the analysis will ever take place, the paper said and the bone remains are currently stored at the Amphipolis Museum.

In May, 2017, Culture Minister Lydia Koniordou announced that 2.5 million euros ($3.07 million) had been allotted for restoration works executed at Kasta Hill, the excavation site of the Amphipolis tomb. There was no word on what happened with that.

The so-called Kasta Tomb, also known as the Amphipolis Tomb is an ancient Macedonian tomb that was discovered inside the Kasta mound (or Tumulus) near Amphipolis, Central Macedonia, in northern Greece in 2012 and first entered in August 2014.

The first excavations at the mound in 1964 led to exposure of the perimeter wall, and further excavations in the 1970s uncovered many other ancient remains. The recently discovered tomb is dated to the last quarter of the 4th century B.C.

The tumulus is the largest ever discovered in Greece and by comparison dwarfs that of Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, in Vergina. The excavation team, based on findings unearthed at the site, argued that the tomb was a memorial dedicated to the close friend of Alexander the Great, Hephaestion.

It is not yet known who is buried in the tomb, but the initial public speculation that it could be the tomb of Alexander the Great, because of its size and estimated cost of construction, was dismissed by the experts community when commenting on the published findings, as the available historical records mention Alexandria in Egypt as the last known location of Alexander’s body; it has been supported instead, that a likely occupant could be either a wealthy Macedonian noble or a late member of the royal family.

The skeletal remains of five people were unearthed within a corresponding tomb, in the lower levels of the third chamber in November 2014. The dead of the burial are: A woman at the age of 60, two men aged 35–45, a newborn infant and a fifth person represented by minimum fragments.

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