Sphinx's Missing Head Found Within Tomb

Archaeologists continue to unearth secrets of tomb at Amphipolis
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2014 8:12 AM CDT
Sphinx's Missing Head Found Within Tomb
This picture provided by Greece's culture ministry on Oct. 21, 2014, shows the broken marble head of one of the two sphinx statues that decorated the entrance.   (AP Photo/Greek Culture Ministry)

In August, archaeologists in Greece announced they were about ready to enter what they say is the biggest ancient tomb ever unearthed in the country—which would mean passing by the two headless carved sphinxes that flank its entrance. Now those archaeologists say one of the missing sphinx heads has been found inside, along with fragments of the sphinx's wings. The 2-foot head, whose nose and lips are lightly damaged, was unearthed in the third chamber of the fourth-century tomb at the ancient site of Amphipolis in the Macedonia region. A press release notes that the clean break at the bottom of the neck is a perfect match with the eastern sphinx's body; when united, the head's wavy hair would flow over the left shoulder.

The 1.5-ton sphinxes have red coloring on their feet; traces of similar coloring appear in the head's hair. It's the latest in a series of wonders given up by the tomb—among them, two carved caryatids (statues of females that stand in for pillars) and a mosaic that recounts Hades' abduction of Persephone. Discovery notes that all these elements are represented in a marble throne believed to have belonged to Alexander the Great's grandmother. As for who's buried there, AFP notes one theory: Alexander's mother, Olympias. As for why the sphinxes were decapitated, one researcher tells Discover that after Alexander's death, eventual successor Cassander—who had Alexander's widow and son murdered—could have destroyed the tomb to "prevent Olympias' supporters getting access to her remains. This would also suggest that Olympias' remains are still inside." (A sphinx was recently uncovered in ... California.)

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