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Gold Wreath Volume 54 Number 1, January/February 2001
by Yannis N. Stavrakakis and Eleni Stoumbou

Fields Yield Archaeological Harvest

[image] A fifth-century B.C. gold wreath and Hellenistic chamber tomb were recently discovered in agricultural fields near Thessaloniki in northern Greece (Courtesy 16th Ephoria of Prehistorical and Classical Antiquities). [LARGER IMAGE] [LARGER IMAGE] [image]

An honest farmer plowing his fields in Apollonia, a rural village near the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, recently uncovered a remarkably well-preserved gold wreath dating to ca. 450-425 B.C., which he promptly handed over to Thessaloniki's Archaeological Museum. The wreath, composed of 30 hammered gold ivy leaves and two bunches of molded berries that decorate its front, is similar to two gold wreaths previously discovered in northern Greece. "Such wreaths belonged to the aristocracy, who wore them at symposiums, or possibly to priests of Dionysos, who wore them during great feasts honoring the god," says Polyxeni Adam-Veleni, director of the 16th Ephoria of Prehistorical and Classical Antiquities, who notes that they are uncommon finds. The field in which the new wreath was found is believed to harbor the cemetery of the ancient city of Apollonia; the Ephoria has undertaken excavations there since September.

Meanwhile, in a tomato field outside of the village of Kalamoto, also near Thessaloniki, a local shepherd discovered a freshly dug hole which led to a unique, two-storied chamber tomb from the fourth-century B.C. Archaeologists believe it is part of a cemetery of the unexcavated Hellenistic (323-27 B.C.) Kalindoia, a village associated in legend with Alexander the Great. Though recently picked over by looters, as well as desecrated in antiquity, the tomb still shows signs of opulence suggesting that Kalindoia was wealthy at the time.

Investigation of the tomb by Constantine Sismanides of the 16th Ephoria revealed that it is composed of an antechamber and main chamber separated by a miniature double door made of marble. Beneath the main chamber's marble floor was a third compartment, more luxurious and in better condition than the others. Marble panels with colorful molding along their top edge decorate its walls.

Sismanides found the marble door smashed, fragments of it in both the upper and lower compartments. He also recovered the remains of at least three people, possibly members of an important family, as well as bits of broken pottery, ceramic beads covered with gold leaf from a necklace, and other small pieces of gold foil from missing pieces of jewelry.

A wood near Kalamoto is called the Thousand Trees. According to legend, Alexander and his soldiers stopped for the night on an open plain here, tying their horses to stakes driven into the ground. After the army broke camp the next day, the stakes they left behind grew into 1,000 strong oaks. Although Alexander likely passed through here (a marble inscription bearing his name was found in the area), the woods were cut down several times and the actual age of the existing oaks is estimated at 700-750 years.

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© 2001 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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