Mace­do­nian-era tomb opens to the pub­lic in Thes­sa­loniki

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY GIOTA MYRTSIOTI

The mar­ble door that once sealed its en­trance is on dis­play at the Is­tan­bul Ar­chae­ol­ogy Mu­se­ums, the most strik­ing find made by Greek Ot­toman-era ar­chae­ol­o­gist Theodore Makridi dur­ing his ex­ca­va­tions of a tomb in Der­veni, near Thes­sa­loniki, two years be­fore the north­ern Greek port city was lib­er­ated.

The dou­ble-cham­bered bar­rel-vaulted tomb is among the great­est dis­cov­er­ies in the area and has been as­so­ci­ated with Lete, one of the great­est ci­ties of the an­cient King­dom of Mace­do­nia. Nev­er­the­less, it lay al­most com­pletely aban­doned for over a cen­tury.

The el­e­ments did their worst and this beau­ti­ful his­toric struc­ture was at the point of col­lapse in 2011, when it was fi­nally slated for restora­tion and pro­tec­tion un­der the Euro­pean Union struc­tural funds pro­gram for 2007–2013, with a bud­get of 1.2 mil­lion eu­ros. Work on the site com­menced in 2012 and now the Tomb of Makridi Bey, as it is known, con­sti­tutes one of the high­lights of Thes­sa­loniki’s his­toric sites (with de­tails soon avail­able on­line at www.mace­do­niantombof­makridy­bey.cul­ture.gr).

Dated to be­tween the late 4th and early 3rd cen­tury BC, with a mon­u­men­tal fa­cade in the Ionic rhythm and a mar­ble sar­coph­a­gus in the death cham­ber, the tomb is a splen­did sam­ple of ar­chi­tec­ture and burial rites, as well as ev­i­dence of the in­cred­i­ble wealth that poured into the King­dom of Mace­do­nia with the re­turn of Alexan­der the Great’s army from its East­ern cam­paign.

“When we took over, the con­di­tion of the tomb was lam­en­ta­ble. The struc­ture was dis­torted and the an­techam­ber had set­tled onto the scaf­fold­ing that had propped it up since 1997,” says ar­chi­tect and re­storer Fani Athansiou.

An in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary team of ex­perts con­ducted a dozen stud­ies be­fore any de­ci­sions could be taken to start restoring the struc­ture and to pro­tect the site with a solid shel­ter, part of which is sub­merged in the ground. The team (com­pris­ing Vene­tia Malama, Maria Miza, Maria Saran­ti­dou and Alexis Pa­pa­sotirou) then pro­ceeded to re­store the road that led up to the tomb, its Ionic fa­cade and the orig­i­nal col­ors of the plas­ter that adorned its walls and arches.

Piece of the nar­ra­tive

Re­stored and il­lu­mi­nated at night, the mon­u­men­tal tomb – 10 me­ters in length and 8 me­ters in height – con­sti­tutes yet an­other piece of ev­i­dence in the nar­ra­tive shaped by a plethora of other finds on the strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance of Lete, a city that was in­hab­ited from early Ne­olithic (5,600–5,300 BC) to Ro­man times, ar­chae­ol­o­gist Ka­te­rina Tzanavari ex­plains. Built be­fore Thes­sa­loniki, it was a fortress on the nar­row stretch be­tween the plain of Lan­gadas and Lake Koroneia, and ex­pe­ri­enced its peak dur­ing the reign of Philip II.

Ex­ca­va­tions in the vicin­ity have also brought to light the Sanc­tu­ary of Deme­ter and Kore (1936), un­looted graves from a large Ar­chaic ceme­tery (1962), the an­cient set­tle­ment and master­pieces in me­tal and gold (in­clud­ing the famed Der­veni Krater, me­tal uten­sils, pre­cious ves­sels, mar­ble stat­ues and the Der­veni Pa­pyrus). Th­ese finds grace the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion halls of the Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum of Thes­sa­loniki.

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