Katerina Peristeri, head of the archaeological team at Amphipolis, cannot be reached easily, does not speak publicly very often and, in general, is a low-key and very humble person committed to her work, which she undertakes with devotion and passion.
I met her a few days ago at the port city of Volos, in Thessaly, central Greece. In an exclusive interview with Neos Kosmos, she talked about the findings and the progress made so far at the Amphipolis excavations, her expectation of knowing who is buried there by Christmas, and her willingness to travel to Australia in order to present in detail the entire project.
“I am aware of the interest of Hellenism in faraway Australia for the largest funerary complex that has come to the surface so far, which has caused awe and excitement around the planet,” Ms Peristeri told Neos Kosmos.
“This interest of the Greeks in Australia gives me hope and vision to continue to work with the team of archaeologists at Amphipolis, Serres.
Your love for this excavation, the way you have embraced it moves me and I promise that once the work is completed I will visit Australia in order to give lectures for the Greek Australians and the wider community, where I will talk in detail about all the different stages of the Amphipolis excavation and all the findings.”
The finding at Amphipolis is an important funeral complex, which dates to the last quarter of the 4th century BC, after the death of Alexander the Great, Ms Peristeri said.
With two sphinxes and two caryatids revealed until now in three chambers of the ancient burial site, the officials say there may be a previously unknown fourth chamber to the tomb.
Earlier this week, Greek culture officials have revealed a full frontal view of the 2.3-meter tall statues of Caryatid maidens that guard a mysterious tomb from the age of Alexander the Great at the site of Casta Hill, Northern Greece.
Excavators got their first glimpse of the wavy-haired statues when the stone heads and torsos were unearthed, after a wall of sealing stones was removed.
It is still not known who was buried at the Amphipolis site, but the archaeologists lead by Ms Peristeri suspect it was a high-ranking official or general from Alexander’s reign, or even a member of the royal family.
“We do not know what else is in there, but such a monument has not been found to date worldwide. Every day we discover new things which surprise and excite us. I cannot describe in words the feelings when we saw the Caryatids.
“We continue systematically the excavation, which requires surgical precision and consistency.
“We, archaeologists, believe in the archaeological data and not in speculation,” said Ms Peristeri.
“It is impossible for the tomb to be Roman, this is what we can conclude from the findings so far. No matter who might be the “residents” of the burial
complex, the whole monument is important because it gives us information about the time after the death of Alexander the Great,” said Ms Peristeri who went on to stress that Amphipolis was one of the major Greek cities in ancient times.
Regarding the timeframe of the project, Ms Peristeri said that hopefully by Christmas, the archaeological team might be able to give the much awaited answer to question who was buried at Amphipolis.
Katerina Peristeri is the head of the KH Ephorate of Pre historic and Classical antiquities, centred around north eastern city of Serres, since 2009. She graduated from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and completed her postgraduate studies in France. Her intensive excavations at Amphipolis started in 2010.