The discovery of the Royal Tombs in 1977 at the archaeological site of Vergína, some 13km (8 miles) from the town of Veroia, was the most exciting archaeological happening in Greece in the 20th century. It rivalled Schliemann’s unearthing of the tombs at Mycenae in the 19th century.
The discovery was made by Professor Manolis Andronikos (1919-1992), who uncovered an entrance to a tomb. Unlike the over-confident Schliemann, he did not claim to know in advance what lay inside the tomb. In fact what he had found was the burial place of King Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. The skeleton of this Macedonian King was complete, and contained inside a golden funeral casket, on top of which was the emblem of the Macedonian star. These amazing finds are now among the highlights of the Archaeological Museum in Thessaloníki.
The finding of the tombs led to a flurry of activity in the area, and a great deal of archaeological work. A first class new museum was built, as soon as it was possible to allow visitors to view the tombs, which are on display behind protective glass.
The first of the two main tombs found by Professor Andronikos had been looted long ago, but the second contained priceless treasures. They also rewrote the history books, as it had long been thought that the Macedonian Kings had been buried at Edessa.
In addition to the tombs (and there are other minor ones nearby), here too is the site of the Palace of Palatitsia, which post-dates Philip II and Alexander and was probably built in the 3rd century BC as a summer palace for the then King, Antigonus Gonatus. The remains are not spectacular, although the extent of the site is. Much more interesting is the nearby theatre, which is much older and is thought to be where Philip II was assassinated, possibly at the instigation of his own son, Alexander.
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