September 07, 2014

Amphipolis caryatid

The constant stream of discoveries from the Amphipolis tomb are fascinating. It is not often that one sees archaeology reported almost in "real time".

It is clear that a tomb with a 500m perimeter from the last quarter of the 4th c. BC (i) was built for someone very important, and (ii) someone that is in the history books. 

Unfortunately, such a huge monument would be sure to have attracted attention even in antiquity and it's possible that it was robbed; the intact tomb of Philip II in Vergina (where more tombs in the royal necropolis have recently been discovered) is, by comparison, much more modest, which may have contributed to its lucky fate. Even if the tomb was robbed, the non-movable art from the site by itself would make it an amazing discovery from the ancient world.

Perhaps one day non-cremated remains from a Macedonian Argead royal will be tested for ancient DNA. In the Peloponnese, the institution of kingship waned in power and so the tombs of the descendants of the kings of Argos or Sparta might be indistinguishable from those of their Dorian compatriots. Finding the lineage of Hercules may seem like science fiction at the moment, but ancient DNA keeps revealing amazing new things about the past, so one can always hope!


About Time said...

I wonder if the Heraclids will turn out to be J lineages, which so far don't seem Neolithic. Herakles was sort of the "Genghis Khan" mega-founder of the Mediterranean if there is any truth to the Greek accounts.

Back then the water was the highway, so the Mediterranean was it's own kind of civilizational unit.

Dienekes said...

I think the name Hercules was applied to foreign heroes. This seems to be a common Greek practice when they came into contact with foreign peoples. So, many of the stories of Hercules may in fact be about different persons who were stitched together into one.

Nonetheless, I think it's plausible that there was indeed a historical Hercules that became mythologized early on. It is even more probable that some of the early Heraclids or even the "sons of Hercules" such as Hyllus may have been real people. The historical Heraclids may have been a real patrilineal clan, even if their actual founder wasn't Hercules but some ancient potentate who claimed descent from the famous hero.

Thugnacious said...

Do you think that the Phoenician Hércules Melqart (king of the city) was Gilgamesh or inspired by it?