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Graves provide clues to kingdom

Jewelry, pottery and weapons found near Alexander the Great's birthplace shed light on early Macedonia.

September 13, 2008|From Reuters

ATHENS — Archaeologists have unearthed gold jewelry, weapons and pottery at an ancient burial site near Pella in northern Greece, the birthplace of Alexander the Great, the Culture Ministry said this week.

The excavations at the vast cemetery uncovered 43 graves dating from 650 to 279 BC, shedding new light on the early development of the Macedonian kingdom, which stretched as far as India under Alexander's conquests.

Among the most interesting discoveries were the graves of 20 warriors dating to between 580 and 460 BC, in the late Archaic period, the ministry said in a statement Thursday.

Some of the warriors had been buried in bronze helmets alongside iron swords and knives. Their eyes, mouths and chests were covered in gold foil richly decorated with drawings of lions and other animals symbolizing royal power.

Pavlos Chrysostomou, who headed the eight-year project, which investigated 900 graves, said the site confirmed evidence of an ancient Macedonian society organized along militaristic lines and with overseas trade as early as the second half of the 7th century BC.

Among the excavated graves, the team also found those of 11 women from the Archaic period, with gold and bronze necklaces, earrings and broaches.

Nine of the graves date to the Late Classical or early Hellenistic period, around the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC.

Alexander, whose father, Philip II, unified the city states of mainland Greece, conquered most of the world known to the ancient Greeks before dying at age 32 in Babylon. Educated by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, Alexander was never defeated in battle.

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