SIWA OASIS, Egypt (Reuter) - Archeologists searching in Egypt for the tomb of Alexander the Great said Wednesday they had uncovered an underground passage leading to his final resting place. But they announced a one-month break from their excavations, leaving historians in suspense as to whether they really have found the burial site of the all-conquering Macedonian king -- and solved one of the ancient world's enduring mysteries. Liana Souvaltzi, head of the Greek team exploring the sprawling and leafy oasis of Siwa in Egypt's western desert, said she hoped they would get back to work again at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which began Wednesday. She showed journalists visiting the site at al-Maraqi, about 10 miles west of Siwa town, a concealed crypt leading down from the entrance of the smaller of two excavated buildings. A passageway, impenetrable until it is cleared of mud and water, led on to the actual burial chamber, she said. "I cannot say how many metres (yards) down it is. We have to follow the signs and estimate what is the length and direction we have to follow." She said the larger building -- about 150 feet long and 60 feet wide, with a long corridor leading to two ante-chambers and a "burial chamber" -- was an elaborate decoy designed to mislead potential grave robbers. "It is a unique discovery. Finding his tomb was always the dream of everybody. But now we know where he is buried and we have all the details," Souvaltzi told reporters at the site where, despite skeptisism from many experts, she insists Alexander the Great was buried. Until now most historians had said his grave is somewhere in the Egyptian port city he founded and which was named after him -- Alexandria. Al-Maraqi, surrounded by eerie-looking pink outcrops of rock, lies on the outer edge of the oasis where Alexander was proclaimed a god in 332 B.C., just before he launched a highly successful strike against the Persian king Darius. Souvaltzi said there was overwhelming evidence for her view, including stone tablets her team uncovered which appear to show that Alexander's deputy Ptolemy I carried his mummified body back to al-Maraqi after he died in Babylon in a military campaign, and that the Roman emperor Trajan came to make offerings to the "one and unique" Alexander after his death. She said that the al-Maraqi site had typical Macedonian designs, such as oak leaf insignia at the top of columns, and said Alexander himself requested that he be buried there. "Everyone is free to believe what he likes but we have archeological proof. The tablets were found here, the tomb is here, everything is here. In Alexandria, nothing," she said. Souvaltzi, 47, who studied archeology at Athens University, heads a team which includes her husband Manos, an epigraphist who interprets the ancient inscriptions on the tablets and says he has financed their five years' work in Siwa. Liana Souvaltzi, an unashamed fan of the military leader whose conquests spread Greek influence across the eastern Mediterranean and deep into Asia, said Alexander was "a universal personality and a man of vision." "If he hadn't died so young -- and from our second inscription we have information that Alexander was poisoned -- the destiny of the whole world would have been different. He was going to unite the whole world," she said. Asked why she choose in 1989 to start digging at al-Maraqi, she said she paid more attention to her instinct and interest in local traditions than in received historical wisdom. "As an archeologist you have to respect local legends -- they have a legend here about a famous king being buried with all his weapons and swords." "They also have legends the place is holy," she said adding Alexander was revered as a deity in Siwa for 1,000 years after his death in 323 B.C. aged just 33. "How did I come just to this place? This place is named Maraqi, but this word is not Egyptian, it is not Siwan. It comes from the Greek word 'mirakion'," referring to a man who died when he was still very young, she said.No word from Souvaltzi since Ramadan 1995...
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|NEWSBRIEFS||Volume 50 Number 1 January/February 1997|
|Souvaltzi's Permit Revoked||The Egyptian government has revoked the excavation permit of Liani Souvaltzi, a Greek archaeologist who claimed in 1995 to have discovered the tomb of Alexander the Great in the Siwa Oasis west of Cairo (see ARCHAEOLOGY, May/June 1995). It was her second claim to have found the tomb.|
Subject: Re: Alexander and poison (fwd)
Date: Fri, 10 Feb 1995 09:31:56 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Alexander and poison
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Siwa inscription
naming Alexander and poison is a fraud. It does not exist. The Greek delegates
from the Ministry of Culture saw a dedicatory inscription written on an
architrave of a building from the reign of Trajan. It named Artemidoros,
eparch of Egypt. There was no Alexander and no tomb.
Subject: The "Tomb" of Alexander (fwd)
Date: Tue, 7 Feb 1995 08:01:58 -0500 (EST)
I thought I'd hiss a word of warning on the "Alexander Tomb" to you all, in case you haven't seen this item in the New York Times on Monday (p. 8A):
"CAIRO, Feb. 5 - A high-level archaeological team from the Greek Government, investigating claims that the tomb of Alexander the Great had been discovered in Egypt's western desert, visited the site today and said that they saw no evidence that the tomb had been found.
But Liana Souvaltzi, the archaeologist who announced last week that she had found the tomb outside the oasis of Siwa, said on Saturday: "I have no reservations. This is Alexander's tomb. There is no doubt."
She said the tomb was built in Macedonian style and that three tablets uncovered at the site provided the archaeological proof.
One of the tablets, she said, was written by Alexander's lieutenant. Ptolemy I, and affirmed a legend that Alexander had been poisoned. Another, she said, was left by the Roman emperor Trajan, who she said had paid his respects at the site.
But the Greek team, headed by the General Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, George Thomas, said it was unclear if the structure she was excavating was even a tomb.
He and members of the team said that the style of the complex was not, as Mrs. Souvaltzi said, Macedonian. And they said that the fragments of tablets they were shown did not support any of the translations she provided as proof of her discovery.
The team members also said that the fragment they saw were from the Roman period, some 300 years after the death of Alexander the Great.
"We are not sure if the complex is a tomb or temple," said Dr. Yanni Tzedakis, the Director of Antiquities for the Greek Government, "although there are elements of the Hellenistic period in the rubble. It appears, however, to be from a later period."
Mrs. Souvaltzi has refused to allow the visiting team to read her report on the excavations. She has also refused to brief the team on her work. She gave no reason for her refusal to cooperate with the Greek officials.
"The fact that the report on the excavations is not being shown to us is curious," Dr. Tzedakis said. "She should present photos and plans, along with details of the excavations to back up her claim. This is how it is done in Greece."
Abdel-Halim Nureddin, chairman of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization, who said earlier in the week that he supported the claim by Mrs. Souvlatzi, now says he is less sure about the find.
"It is an important discovery," Mr. Noureddin said, "but we have to be a bit careful. We must wait for further study and a reconsideration of the text."
Mrs. Souvaltzi, who has an archaeological degree from the University of Athens, has been excavating in the area around Siwa, 50 miles east of the Libyan border, for the past four years.
The inscriptions on the tablets, broken into pieces, were translated by Mrs. Souvaltzi's husband, who has no formal archaeological training. He also provides the financing for her research.
Mrs. Souvaltzi, who says she has received mystical guidance in her research, in part from snakes, has claimed in the past that this structure was the tomb of Alexander. She wrote an article in an Egyptian magazine, published by Cairo University three years ago, saying that the same structure was the tomb of Alexander.
The report was dismissed at the time by senior archaeologists in Egypt and Greece.
The Greek team said that the fragments of tablets they were shown did not appear to support Mr. Souvaltzi's translations. They also said that they did not see the eight-pointed Macedonian star Mrs. Souvaltzi says she found on what she describes as the tomb.
"These inscriptions have nothing to do with the period of Ptolemy I," Mr. Tzedakis said, "and they are very well dated. We did not see any of the words they say were inscribed on the tablets, not Alexander, not Ptolemy, not even the word poison."
Alexander, King of Macedonia, led his armies out of Greece in 334 B.C. at the age of 22 and conquered an empire that covered much of Asia and the Middle East. Ancient texts indicate that, after his death in Babylon in 323 B.C. on a military campaign, his body was moved to Syria and then to Egypt. But his final burial place remains a mystery.
About 570 B.C., the Pharaoh Amasis built a temple in Siwa to the god Amun. The temple oracle was one of the most famous in antiquity and was famed for being able to answer difficult question.
Alexander went to Siwa in 332 B.C. to see the oracle. The oracle, according to legend, told Alexander he was divine and the son of Amun.