In an interview with protothema.gr, US archaeologist and historian Dorothy King, who has been following the exciting story of Amphipolis from the very start, posting her views on her personal blog “Dorothy King’s PhDiva,” talked about the mysterious ancient tomb and the Parthenon marbles.
Talking to journalist Vasilis Tsakiroglou, Ms. King revealed that she recently started writing a book about Amphipolis, that will explain in layman’s terms the methodology used in the excavations.
The famous blogger reiterated her belief that the marks found on the monument, which Ms. Medoni, the head of the excavation, confirmed they were made by masons and not by accident, are most likely monograms and symbols connected with Alexander the Great.
Moreover, when asked whom she believes the monument at Amphipolis was dedicated to, the famous archaeologist replied that the tomb was probably ordered by Alexander the Great himself and built under his mother’s supervision, although she eliminated the possibility that the Great Greek King was actually buried there.
In regard to the human intervention evidence found at the monument at Amphipolis and the speculation about looting, Ms. King also noted the following:
My understanding from the excavators was that the original idea was Christian iconoclasm, but that the year before last they presented it as revised down into the Roman period.
Their views are more likely to be correct than mine as they are seeing material day to day, and on most issues I agree with them.
Only important monuments and sanctuaries tended to fall victim to fierce Christian iconoclasm of this nature, and so that would be a point backing up the importance of the tomb as a cult of Alexander the Great, which was then “Christianised” when they built a Byzantine church on the mound later – and could explain the local legends about his burial there. But this can only be speculation at this point!
Because they used soil with walls to hold it in rather than concrete which was common from Roman times onwards, this to me suggests that the filling of the chambers was not meant to be permanent. Because of the clear structural damage which seems to come more from above than below, I still think the weight of the mound was the issue more than earthquakes, and that the soil could have been an emergency measure to stop the tomb collapsing after wooden beams had failed. The doors broke, but most of the damage to the sculptures is from pressure cracks not iconoclasm, and the fact that the wing, head etc were put inside the tomb not vandalised also suggests an attempt to preserve them.
Another possibility is that they sealed the tomb when it was clear the body would not be returned from Egypt, and that the top was destroyed by someone obsessed with Alexander such as Caracalla, who only wanted one Tomb of Alexander, and the architectural elements re-used for a damn.
The filling and removal of the mound do not have to date to the same period, and can be separate events as easily as related ones.
Nothing they have released so far says looting and destruction beyond a doubt – everything can be explained as a rescue attempt, but Peristeri and Lefantzis are very talented and will clarify the tomb in due course, and scholars will continue to debate it for centuries to come.
The famous archaeologist also made the following comments on the Parthenon marbles.
I changed by ideas about the Elgin Marbles many years ago, and prefer to describe them as the Parthenon Sculptures. Although I feel they were acquired as legally as possible at the time, I also feel we need to draw a line somewhere otherwise Greece could have good grounds for claiming sculptures the Romans stole from Greek sanctuaries and which are now in museums in Rome.
In January 2013 I gave a talk at the Wallace Collection in London presenting amongst other things my suggestion for a long-term loan of the London sculptures to Athens, and suggesting that since this would in turn free up space in the British Museum that the Greeks should reciprocate by offering annual exhibitions of important Greek finds, for example from Vergina, or linked to the Olympics during an Olympic year. I have spoken to the woman in charge of the Parthenon Returns at the Ephoria, including earlier this year, and suggested this to people such as William St Clair, and pointed out that this proposal would be very difficult for the British Museum to resist. I also approached a couple of people suggesting that they might be interested in sponsoring such an exchange. I even suggested the Ephoria should approach George Clooney through his agent.
Mrs Clooney did a much better job of presenting the idea and shining the light of the media on it than I possibly could have done, and I was thrilled that such an impressive woman was able to make this international news – which I could never have done. And she did a much better job than Mr Clooney would have done!