This is another one of those mind bogglers which I don’t really understand … Back on August 21, a typically vague and brief item appeared in Greek Reporter:
A group of archaeologists in Amphipolis, a municipality in Serres, claim to have made one of the greatest archaeological discoveries ever, as they believe they have uncovered the tomb of Alexander the Great.
They said the tomb has a circumference of 498 meters, an artwork of perfection would only be built for a king.
Th masterpiece is externally covered with high quality exquisitely-carved marble, a remarkable feat given the tools available at the time.
The tomb once was covered with soil and topped with a lion, the one that has been reassembled further uphill and known as the Lion of Amphipolis which was found by Greek soldiers in 1912.
… which struck me as odd, especially given that none of the archaeologists involved were named, or even quoted. It struck me as odd especially because back in October, when this find was actually initially announced, there were plenty of names and quotes (see, e.g., Roxane’s Tomb?). In March, there were more developments and video coverage (Roxane’s Tomb Redux … click on the links therein as well for Dorothy King’s comments). In any event, because of this it wasn’t surprising to read an AP/Washington Post piece within a few hours suggesting it was ‘too early to tell’ … an excerpt:
[...] A Culture Ministry statement Thursday said the partly-excavated mound has yielded a “very remarkable” marble-faced wall from the late 4th century B.C. It is an impressive 500 meters (yards) long and three meters high.
But the ministry warned it would be “overbold” to link the site near ancient Amphipolis, 370 miles (600 kilometers) north of Athens, with “historic personages” before the excavation is completed. [...]
It’s worth noting that the info in the Washington Post piece is essentially the same (in that it really adds nothing) to the info we read back in October (including the name of the archaeologist who seems to be heading the dig (Aikaterini Peristeri). Again, though, it’s probably not surprising that we had the Greek Reporter (via a different author), trying to do some face saving:
On Aug. 22, the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports published an announcement on its official website about the way the media handled the recent excavation of a big built precinct of the 4th century B.C. in Kasta near Amphipolis, in the Serres regional unit of Greece.
As many Greek websites rushed to link the monument that was discovered to the long-sought tomb of warrior-king Alexander the Great, the Culture Ministry and in particular the General Directorate of Antiquities and Cultural Heritage felt it had to calm things down.
“The finding of Amphipolis is certainly very important, but before the excavation proceeds, any interpretation and mainly any identification with historical figures lacks scientific justification and is too risky,” the Ministry announced.
However, the Ministry admitted that the discovery of the marble-faced wall from the late 4th century B.C., 500 meters long and three meters high, is indeed very remarkable and of high archaeological importance.
So you’d think that would be the end of it and most people who read this blog are shaking their collective heads muttering things about Ptolemy and Alexandria. But nooooo … we read the International Business Times, which includes this bit, inter alia:
Lead archaeologist Aikaterini Peristeri said the grave could contain a “significant individual” or individuals, hinting at the possibility that the remains of Alexander and his wife Roxanne, as well as his young successor, are inside the tomb. [...]
“Hinting”? Really? Didn’t know ‘hinting’ was the equivalent of a journalistic source. The ‘significant individual’ thing was made back in October. Speculation about others (including Roxane) was being made by municipal politician types.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mailhas been even more creative in its cutting and pasting of things written elsewhere, again, inter alia:
Site archaeologist Aikaterini Peristeri has voiced hopes of finding ‘a significant individual or individuals’ within.
A Culture Ministry statement has enthused that the archaeologists have partly excavated a mound that has yielded a ‘very remarkable’ marble-faced wall from the late 4th century BC.
Experts believe the ancient artificial mound could contain the remains of the king, or is at least an important royal Macedonian grave. [...]
MSN then takes things to their illogical conclusion and cites the Daily Mail as the source for its brief item:
If found, the tomb of Alexander the Great would be one of the world’s greatest treasures. Now, archaeologists think they may have found it — not in Egypt, as long believed, but in Greece, around 400 miles north of Athens in the ancient city of Amphipolis. There researchers discovered “an impressive wall,” lined with marble, that might shield a “royal grave” for the 4th-century BC warrior king, whose distinctions include creating one of the biggest empires the world has ever seen. Alexander died young, perhaps at 32, after becoming ill or being poisoned
In short (or TL:DR), no archaeologist has actually made any suggestion that Alexander the Great might be buried in this mound. The only coverage where archaeologists have actually said anything comes back in October and then in March. All this speculation seems to have been made by some reporter at Greek Reporter with too much time on his hands who probably was chatting with some business folks in Serres who are trying to get some tourist bucks while the Culture Ministry was quick to try to bring some sanity back. Sadly, however, other news outlets ran-with-scissors-like to make this into the silliness we’ve witnessed these past few days and, no doubt, will see more in the next few.
By the way, if you’re new to this Alexander Tomb business, you might want to check out some of our previous posts: