Greek archaeologists excavating a massive Alexander the Great-era burial mound complex at Kasta Hill, in the northern Greek region of Serres, made the exciting discovery of two large exquisitely-carved caryatid marble statues.
News of discoveries is becoming more frequent since the Greek government formally announced to the world that the tomb had been discovered in Amphipolis last month, a Greek city that was founded by the Athenians in eastern Macedonia on the Strymon River in 438-437 BC.
Last week, a stunning mosaic floor made from pieces of white marble on a red background was uncovered in the antechamber behind the tomb entrance.
It is believed that the tomb houses a very important figure from 320-300 BC, as the burial complex is ten times larger than the tomb of Alexander's father, Philip II of Macedon.
Archaeologists took two years to excavate the burial mound on Kasta hill to discover the entrance of the tomb, which is guarded by two sphinxes, who lost their heads and wings in antiquity.
Behind the sealing wall, an antechamber and three other chambers have discovered, and it appears that the tomb was sealed by pouring sand into the tomb through gaps at the top of the diaphragmatic walls of the chambers.
According to the Greek Ministry of Culture, after clearing away even more sand, over the weekend the archaeologists discovered an architrave (i.e. a door lintel held up by two columns) with a second sealed, 4.5-metre wide limestone wall in place of the doorway.
The stone wall is another attempt by the tomb's architects to keep intruders out, and the columns are caryatids (sculpted female figures serving as an architectural support) which each have one arm extended out to the side, perhaps to symbolically bar entrance.
The statues are believed to have been made of marble which would have been imported from the nearby island of Thassos, and look to be the same handiwork as the sphinxes.
Traces of red and blue colouring have been found on the statues, which means they might possibly also be Korai, a type of Greek maiden statue that was popular between the seventh to early fifth century BC.
Embedded into the roof of the chamber, the archaeologists also discovered a rectangular marble tile featuring a rosette that is painted in red, yellow and blue.
Kasta Hill tomb
Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras paid an official visit in August to the site with his wife and the Greek culture minister Constantinos Tassoulas, where the archaeologists explained their findings from a two-year excavation (see more photos).
The burial mound measures 497m across, with a wall that is 3m high. Although it is almost a complete circle carved in marble, it is built in levels similar to the way an Egyptian pyramid is built. A wide path leads to the tomb where the entrance is guarded by the sphinxes.
"The land of Macedonia continues to move and surprise us, revealing from deep within its unique treasures, which combine to form the unique mosaic of Greek history of which all Greeks are very proud," Samaras told reporters during the visit.
In recent weeks since the tomb visit, Greek media has been accusing Samaras of using the discovery as a distraction to the political troubles facing the rather shaky new coalition government, likening Amphipolis to an "archaeological Disneyland" attracting streams of tourists.
The famous Lion of Amphipolis, one of the best preserved monuments from 4th century BC, was found in 1912 by the Greek army in the river bed of the Strymónas.
Acclaimed architect Michael Lefantzis believes that it once stood at the highest and most central point of the Kasta Hill mound. It now stands next to the old bridge over Strymónas river, on the street Amphipolis-Serraiki Akti.
Some of the Greek media have theorised that Alexander the Great might lie in the Kasta Hill mound, but that is unlikely as the tomb was built after his death, and his tomb is believed to be somewhere in Egypt.
At the moment, the leading theory is that someone close to Alexander the Great is buried in Kasta Hill, possibly the general Laomedon.
Others believe the lion statue was erected on the hill by Agnon and dedicated to the 10,000 people killed in the battle of Draviskos, another ancient city in Serres.