Thursday, March 5, 2015

New discoveries from the necropolis at Aegae, including the tomb of a possible priest of Dionysus

Gold earrings from 4th C BC tomb, photo: Greek Ministry of Culture 
Today the latest discoveries from the necropolis of Aegae (Vergina) were announced by Imathia’s Head of Antiquities Angeliki Kottaridi. And, as usual, they did not disappoint. The excavations revealed a total of 21 graves, of which 6 had been looted. The most spectacular find came from a tomb dating to the 4th C BC which contained the remains of a young girl. The girl had been buried with gold ornaments including earrings, but also a bronze mirror, the only one discovered so far in Aegae.  The mirror features a relief of Eros flying in to embrace the god Dionysus, who is seated on the skin of a panther laid across some rocks. 
Bronze mirror with Eros & Dionysus, photo: Greek Ministry of Culture
One of the tombs contained the remains of a funerary bed decorated with plaques made of terracotta, showing Athena watching a battle of Greeks against barbarians in relief.
 Perhaps the most intriguing find was a looted cist tomb, dated to the time of Alexander the Great, that contained a vase used as an urn. The urn was crowned with a bronze ivy wreath and contained the remains of a man aged around 50 years of age. The tomb contained a narrow wooden table upon which utensils of the type used in a symposium had been placed. 



Among the vessels was a bronze bowl used for mixing wine and water, with very fine decoration that showed the high degree of skill of the Macedonian craftsmen.
 The bowl was found lying on the floor of the tomb and surrounded by organic debris associated with the funerary couch. The remains of fabric from the bed and the clothes of the dead were lying amongst the debris of the wooden couch, and traces of purple could be seen amongst the fabric. The gilt decoration from the front of the couch is reminiscent of the gold and ivory beads discovered in the (so-called) tomb of Philip II at Vergina. Speculation has arisen about the occupant of the tomb. Mrs Kottardi noted that the occupant was an adult male so wealthy that he could afford clothes dyed with purple, yet at the same time there were no arms or armour within the tomb. The absence of arms, combined with the ivy wreath around the urn, suggested to Kottardi that the man may have been a priest of Dionysus, or an associated cult. Let’s hope that further investigations shed more light on the occupants of the newly excavated tombs.
Lifting the slabs of a cist grave, photo: Greek Ministry of Culture