Greece unearths two sculpted female figures in vast ancient tomb

This handout picture released by the Greek Ministry of Culture on Sept 7, 2014 shows one of the two statues of a Caryatid inside the Kasta Tumulus in ancient Amphipolis, northern Greece. -- PHOTO: AFP
This handout picture released by the Greek Ministry of Culture on Sept 7, 2014 shows one of the two statues of a Caryatid inside the Kasta Tumulus in ancient Amphipolis, northern Greece. -- PHOTO: AFP

ATHENS (Reuters) - Archaeologists have unearthed two sculpted female figures, known as Caryatids, as they slowly make their way into an ancient tomb recently discovered in Greece's northeast, the country's culture ministry said on Sunday.

They mark a significant new finding in the tomb on the Amphipolis site, about 100 km from Greece's second-biggest city Thessaloniki, which archaeologists have hailed as a major discovery from the era of Alexander the Great. The figures made of Greek marble were unearthed on Saturday, the ministry said in a statement.

The Caryatids, with thick curls covering their shoulders, support an inner entrance into the tomb and feature the same sculpting technique used for the heads and wings of two sphinxes found guarding the main entrance of the tomb in August, according to the statement.

"The structure of the second entrance with the Caryatids is an important finding, which supports the view that it is a prominent monument of great importance," the Culture Ministry said.

The face of one of the Caryatids is missing, while both figures have one hand outstretched in a symbolic move to push away anyone who would try to violate the tomb. Archaeologists have said that the Amphipolis site appeared to be the largest ancient tomb to have been discovered in Greece.

Excavations, which began in 2012, have not yet determined who was buried in the tomb but culture ministry officials have said that the monument appeared to belong to a prominent Macedonian from the 300-325 B.C. era.