Grave tumulus at Orestiada
© Region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
Grave tumuli dating from the 5th to the 2nd centuries AD were revealed in the locations of Didymoteicho, Orestiada and Trigono of the Evros region. The graves that belonged to wealthy persons are located close to roads and on low hills, so that they could probably be visible from far away.
The grave tumuli of Ampelakia and of Patagi, at Orestiada, are characteristic; the excavation works for their preservation lasted from mid September to early December 1994.
The excavation finds at Ampelakia date the grave tumulus to the 1st century AD, when Thrace became a province of the Roman Empire.
The tumulus had a diameter of almost 53 metres and a height of 5.47 metres. 23 spots of funerary rituals and offerings were found scattered on the south and west parts of the tumulus along with fragments of clay vessels, traces of cremations, animal bones and intact vessels. Most of these finds date back to the imperial times, except from some fragments of painted black-figure vessels and pointed-bottom amphorae that seem to belong to an earlier tumulus. In a certain spot, the imprints of a wood litter were preserved that served for carrying a half earthenware jar with pottery sherds, ashes, coals and animal bones, remains of funeral ceremonies.
The main burial of the grave tumulus at Ampelakia was a large pit in the shape of a trough with inclined inner sides. The cremation remains of a dead man were found in the pit along with small fragments of bones and ashes that were all placed together with the grave goods on the bottom of the pit and covered with earth up to the level of an inner rim. On the highest level, there were remains of funerary offerings and animal bones, while characteristic marks of a rectangular wooden coffin with parallel and transverse pieces of wood were found in the pit (as the holes of the preserved iron nails indicate). On the upper part of the pit, the inner sides were finely coated with red clay earth.
Important grave goods were also found in the burials like the fragments of glass vessels, iron knives, remains of shoe soles and a bronze oinochoe with an elaborate handle ending to the head of a Silenus as well as a trefoil-rim oinochoe with an iron handle and two clay pots. However, the most important grave good found here was an iron cross-legged stool (a folding chair) with straight legs, which is a unique example ever found, not only in Thrace but also on Greek soil. The stool is decorated on the upper edges with bronze lion heads, while the junctions of the legs are decorated with bronze female heads (gorgoneia). Almost every stool depicted in reliefs and Attic vessels appears to have bent legs in imitation of animal legs, while the type of stool with straight legs appears in Egypt and the area of Italy. Athenaeus offers a valuable piece of information about Atheneans; he mentions that the servants carried the stools so that their masters would use them every time they went out and they needed a chair to sit on.
Apart from the main burial of the tumulus, another burial without any grave goods was uncovered with the skeleton of a young man lying in a crouched posture. This burial dates to an earlier period.
Apart from the grave tumulus at Ampelakia, another monument was found in the same area of Orestiada, which is important for its construction technique. It is the tumulus at Patagi that was found containing a plundered and broken cist grave. The tomb was covered with a layer of rectangular slabs and it was built with three courses of corner blocks, corbelled inner walls and floor constructed with marble slabs. A roughly built passageway, probably associated with the funerary ceremonies of the burial, stretched from the south to the east side of the tomb. A few fragments of unpainted vessels were found in the tomb together with fragmentized bones and a part of an iron item, while several fragmentized bones of the skeleton of the dead were found scattered in the interior of the passageway. It is difficult to date accurately the monument, since no grave goods were found in the interior of the tomb. However, judging from the form and the applied construction technique, it presumably dates to the late 4th or the early 3rd centuries BC.