The despairing cry of the tomb of Alexander the Great from the desert at Siwa Oasis
The following is an article written by Liana Souvaltzi, Archaeologist and Director of the Greek Mission at Siwa Oasis, who we invited to report on her research regarding the discovery of a large monument in the Siwa Oasis that she maintains is the tomb of Alexander the Great. It follows an earlier article about her discovery, which we would recommend reading first – Tomb of Alexander the Great already found, archaeologist claims, but findings have been blocked by ‘diplomatic intervention’ .
The decision to write this article is not an easy one to make because it hurts me so much… My aim is to give the public the opportunity to understand that it has been a crime against this unique monument from the political background of the year 1996, which dealt a fatal blow to this discovery and the scientific work.
The discovery of the Tomb of Alexander the Great, cannot be considered a chance event but it was the result of many years of study and research into a remote area, where no one had previously searched for his tomb.
It took around twenty years of study to find the magic key that would resolve the great mystery of the location of the site of the tomb; this was the wish of Alexander to be buried at the Oasis of Ammon. This wish and desire had been reported in the texts of the historians of the time of Alexander, such as Callisthenes, Aristobulus, Ptolemy and later writers such as Diodorus and Plutarch.
How would it have been possible for anyone not to carry out an order from the King or not to accomplish the wish of ‘the god’ Alexander?
Valuable information was also obtained from the ascetics of the desert, who reported the existence of the tomb at the oasis and the worship of Alexander as a god, together with Ammon, like Abu Sisoes in the 4 th century AD. Dorotheus, the Bishop of Tyre in the 5 th century AD, and Procopius, a historian of the 6 th century AD, also mention this information.
The excavations, which were purely financed by our team, started in 1989 and the work was stopped in 1996.
The archaeological site is 15 kilometers west of the Ammon Temple, which is in the town of Siwa. The area where the tomb is located is named El Maraki. The tomb complex covers an enormous area of 12,000 square meters, of which 5,000 square meters were excavated.
From the size of the tomb itself, which is 51m long and has an outer width of 10.25m, it is obvious that it could only have been destined for use as a burial monument for the worship of a very important person, such as a king.
The tomb sits on a rock, underneath which lies an enormous gold mine, the first found in the western desert. It consists of an entrance, corridor, and three chambers.
The presence of corner triglyphs reflects the Greek nature of the monument. The architectural features found in the area of the three chambers and the corridor, indicate that the corridor had been built on the inside and had been vaulted and that the roof on the third chamber had probably graded upwards in a form of a pyramid-like shape at the top of which a huge lion was standing.
Corner triglyph found in the monument at Siwa Oasis. Credit: Liana Souvaltzi
The decorative sculptures of the monument are unique and an excellent example of Classical Greek Art. Representative classical themes were present, such as the astragal, the egg and dart, the eight-petal rosette, leaf-like pieces, and open and closed anthemia.
The lintel from the burial chamber of the tomb showing the eight-petal rosettes, a symbol of Macedonian royalty. Credit: Liana Souvaltzi
The presence of special symbols denoting Alexander were also present, such as the hologlyph lions, the eight beamed star, the disk with the snakes, the acorn tree and the Macedonian shields.
Lion head found inside the tomb. Credit: Liana Souvaltzi
An important point was that many of the architectural features that were found, such as the triglyph and horizontal cornice with the mutules (rectangular block above the triglyph), had maintained their original colours – in this case, blue. Some of the metopes (spaces between two triglyphs on a Doric frieze) had maintained their terracotta colour. A few pieces of the friezes saved from the inside of the corridor maintained the colour on the green leaves and the blue on the anthemia which were similar to lotus flowers on a white background.