Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tomb of a Sleeping Queen?

Image Source: AP via National Geographic.

From Marie Antoinette, a modern Austrian princess, we go back through time to another queen, Olympias. We go back through Austria, or Österreich (the 'Eastern Reich,' the modern remnant of the Eastern Roman Empire), and before Rome, back to Greece. In Greece, archaeological circles are buzzing about a newly-discovered burial chamber from the time of Alexander the Great (Hat tip: Graham Hancock). It is 2,300 years old and is the largest ancient tomb in northern Greece.

The burial mound stands near ancient Amphipolis, 600 kilometers (370 miles) north of Athens. The tomb inside the mound is massive, marble-walled and ornately decorated, and must house the body of a royal personage, perhaps Alexander's mother or wife.

It is unlikely to be the tomb of the famous king himself, whose grave is lost somewhere in Egypt - another mystery waiting to be solved. The site is dated after his death, in the latter quarter of the 4th century BC, approximately between 325 and 300 BCE. Alexander died in 323 BCE. A member of the Argead dynasty ('from Argos'), Wiki describes him simply: "The most notable ancient Greek King and one of the most celebrated strategists and rulers of all time. Alexander at the top of his reign was simultaneously King of Macedonia, Pharaoh of Egypt, King of Persia and King of Asia." Because of his blinding legacy, still evident today, Alexander's impact arguably surpasses that of any other leader of the ancient world, including the Persian kings, the Egyptian pharaohs, and successive Roman emperors. Unsurprisingly, that interpretation is disputed by modern Iranian scholars. Legacies aside, the tomb dates from ancient Greece's highest moment of glory and power before the flowering of a multicultural Hellenistic imperial culture, which eventually led to the emergence of the Roman Empire after the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE.

In the 2004 film, Alexander, the conflict between east and west is symbolized by the confrontation between horse-mounted and elephant-mounted troops in modern-day Pakistan, on the banks of the Hydaspes River. The Battle of the Hydaspes River (326 BCE) resulted in the defeat of King Porus of the Hindu Paurava kingdom and the Macedonian annexation of the Punjab. Video Source: Warner Bros. via Youtube.

Alexander the Great's empire at its furthest extent, 323 BCE. Image Source: Wiki.

The identity of the Greek tomb's occupant is a mystery, although archaeologists believe they may discover it before Christmas 2014. They have taken months to remove tonnes of earth from the site, which is less than half excavated. Specialists are waiting to see if the tomb went unplundered, in which case it should be full of funerary treasures.

This lion once stood atop the tomb. Images Source: Greek Reporter and Red and White Kop.

The first sign that there is a huge grave in the vicinity is a five-metre-tall lion. It originally stood atop a plinth to mark the top of the 500-metre-long funeral edfice and later mound. It was moved in Roman times and destroyed to shore up a nearby riverbank. The pieces were discovered and noted by British soldiers passing through the area in 1916. In the 1920s, the blocks were put back together and the lion was restored. It stands next to an area roadside and is a favourite with passing tourists. It is the largest lion built for early Hellenistic tombs.

Images Source: Red and White Kop.

Archaeologists working the area in the late 1960s kept finding pieces of marble, more than needed for the lion. They discovered a perfectly circular, 3-metre-high wall around the base of the Hill of Kasta, near Amphipolis and Nea Mesolakkia. Further excavation to find what the wall guarded did not take place for some time due to funding difficulties. Specialists had to remove much of the hill and uncover the walled-up entrance, which is guarded by two sphinxes, below.

Image Source: Red and White Kop.

The main partially-unearthed entrance to the Kasta Tumulus in ancient Amphipolis is guarded by two sphinxes. Image Source: AP via ABC.

After the sphinxes, archaeologists unearthed a hall, followed by a second doorway, guarded by two caryatids. Following that, on 12 September 2014, they found a third chamber past the caryatids.

Jolie's portrayal of Olympias in 2004 © Warner Bros. Video Source: Youtube.

The caryatids and symbolism around the third chamber could indicate the burial of a queen, although that has not been confirmed. The tomb of Alexander's father, King Philip II of Macedonia, was discovered in 1977 in a royal cemetery 200 kilometers (125 miles) to the west. But until now (possibly), the resting place of his formidable mother, Olympias, has remained unknown. According to historic sources, Olympias, who changed her name several times as she married and moved through the mystery cults, engaged in lesbian orgiastic rituals with groups of handmaidens. A member of the snake-worshiping cult of Dionysus, she supposedly slept with pet snakes. This was how she was portrayed by Angelina Jolie in the 2004 film Alexander. Greek Reporter:
Plutarch in the second chapter of his Life of Alexander [read it for free online here] gives a colourful account of Olympias and her women. He writes that these women participated in Orphic rites and Dionysiac orgies with the queen and were called Klodones (possibly “spinners” or “cacklers”) or Mimallones (“men imitators”).
Polyaenus ... in a story about Argaeus, an early king of Macedon, writes that the Klodones were priestesses of Dionysus, who became called Mimallones after Macedonian virgins carrying the wands of Dionysus were mistaken for men in a battle. Plutarch also tells us that Olympias kept serpents that would often rear their heads out of the “mystical winnowing baskets” of her Klodones to terrify the men.
The word λίκνων that Plutarch uses for these baskets describes the type of basket that is carried on the heads of the Amphipolis caryatids. Therefore, on the assumption that the Amphipolis tomb is that of Olympias, the explanation for the caryatids would be that they represent those Klodones that shared in Orphic rites with the queen whose tomb they guard.
Ostensibly, the lion from the monument that once stood atop the tomb mound at Amphipolis as shown in Figure 5 is a problem for the identification of the tomb as that of Olympias. Some have argued that it might be a lioness as no penis has yet been found belonging to it. But this is difficult, because it has a very definite mane, an attribute exclusive to male lions. However, the second chapter of Plutarch’s Alexander answers this point too, for he tells the story of how Philip, Alexander’s father, dreamt that he put a seal bearing the device of a lion on the womb of Olympias whilst she was pregnant with Alexander.
What better symbol, therefore, to proclaim the tomb of the mother of Alexander the Great than the device on the seal under which she became his mother? And it is a truly monumental lion standing 5.3m tall, the biggest of the lions from early Hellenistic tombs and far bigger than the lion that stood (and now stands again) on the battle site of Chaeronea.
Olympias was stoned to death at Pydna in 316 BCE during bloody wars around Alexander's succession, as different royal dynasties struggled to consolidate Greece. Another Macedonian king, Cassander, denied Olympias burial rites. Alexander's wife, Roxana and his son, Alexander IV, were trapped and killed a few years later in 310 BCE at Amphipolis, near this tomb. Thus, this sepulchre may alternatively be their final resting place. The tomb may also be a cenotaph to honour a great figure whose remains lie elsewhere.

Unearthing of the second door. Image Source: Greek Reporter.

Statues of female figures in long-sleeved tunics were found standing guard at the tomb's second entrance. Image Source: AFP via ABC.

Two caryatids guard the second entrance to the tomb with outstretched arms. According to the Greek Ministry of Culture, "The left arm of one and the right arm of the other are raised in a symbolic gesture to refuse entry to the tomb." Image Source: AP via National Geographic.

Location of the tomb at Amphipolis. Image Source: National Geographic.

Aerial view of Tumulus Hill. Video Source: The Amphipolis Tomb via Youtube.

3D video of the anicent tomb discovered by archaeologists in Amphipolis, northern Greece. The video is a Skai TV production. Video Source: ekathimerini via Youtube.

The second room of the tomb features a brightly-coloured mosaic marble floor and other decorations. In November 2014, the remains of a skeleton were discovered in the third chamber after the hall. On 12 November 2014, BBC reported that the skeleton was male:
The culture ministry said the almost intact skeleton belonged to a "distinguished public figure", given the tomb's dimensions and lavishness.
Chief archaeologist Katerina Peristeri said "the tomb in all probability belongs to a male and a general".
The excavation has fascinated Greeks ever since Prime Minister Antonis Samaras visited the site in August 2014 and announced it amounted to "an exceptionally important discovery".
The latest revelations have only added to Greek excitement about the identity of the person entombed at Amphipolis.
"It is an extremely expensive construction, one that no single private citizen could have funded," the ministry said at a briefing for reporters on Wednesday. "It is in all probability a monument to a mortal who was worshipped by his society at the time."
Speculation has been rife, with experts raising several possibilities including the deceased being a member of Alexander the Great of Macedon's family or one of his most senior officials.
While DNA tests are being performed on the skeleton (as of 18 November 2014), archaeologists have found an incredible pair of swinging marble door on a pivot leading into that room. The marble doors ran on curved tracks on the floor to guide them. There is a possible additional entrance to a fourth chamber. An online commenter remarked: "The world is on pins and needles waiting for the full reveal :)"

The door to the tomb's third chamber, unearthed 12 September 2014. Image Source: The Amphipolis Tomb.

"Archaeologists excavating a massive burial mound in northern Greece have found two marble sculptures of female figures and a large, colored marble panel in what appears to be the antechamber of the main room." Image Source: AP via HuffPo

Mosaic on the floor of the second chamber (12 October 2014): "The mosaic - 3m (10ft) wide and 4.5m (15ft) long - depicts a man with a laurel wreath driving a chariot drawn by horses and led by the god Hermes." A later report (12 November 2014) revises that interpretation, indicating that the mosaic depicts the abduction of Persephone by Hades. Image Source: BBC.

Decorative pieces from the wooden coffin in the third chamber (November 2014). Image Source: The Amphipolis Tomb.

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