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A sense of awe in the face of death, the splendours of regal glory, the emotions stirred by the tragic finale of the royal house of the Temenides, are all associated with the site of the royal tombs at Aigai. This conception dictated the scenario; the basic settings were guided by the principle that only the ancient artifacts should be lit up and warm in a dark neutral setting.
The visitor descending into the underground area of the tombs begins his tour with a reconstruction of the Great Mound, the monument that originally marked the site of the Royal Tombs and which no longer exists.
Next are grave stelai and finds from tombs of ordinary Macedonian citizens, who after their death became neighbours of the king, and whose presence provides a yardstick of comparison.
The ruined 3rd c. BC tomb, the collapsed heroon, cult place of the kings, the fascination and sorrow inspired by Persephone’s abduction prepare the visitor as he approaches the dead king.
Philip now takes the stage. His splendid weapons vividly convey the feeling of the ruler’s power. The pile remains of the funerary pyre, found scattered all-over the tomb, are reminders of the tragic holocaust and at the same time an allusion to his passing into another dimension. Next comes the gold coffin (larnax) that contained the bones of the heroozed King Philip II, and the oak crown worn by the dead man. The Gold Larnax it is made of 7,820 gr. of hammered pure gold. Its lid is decorated with a 16 – rayed star symbol and two rosettes, the inner of which is filled with blue enamel. On the sides relief palmettes and lotus buds frame five enameled rosettes. The feet are decorated with rosettes and end in lion-paws. The gold oak crown is the heaviest and most impressive wreath surviving from Greek antiquity. It has 313 leaves and 68 acorns and weighs 714 gr.
The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Professor Manolis Andronikos, the archaeologist who brought the treasures to light and had the knowledge and perceptiveness to recognise them for what they were.
On the discovery of the Royal Tombs of Vergina (Aigai) in 1977, an immediate programme was launched to preserve the magnificent murals which adorned them. At the same time a conservation laboratory was set up on the spot to save and restore the extremely important portable objects they contained. For the preservation of the Royal Tombs themselves a subterranean structure was built in 1993 to encase and protect the ancient monuments by maintaining a constant temperature and humidity, both indispensable for the preservation of the wall paintings.
Externally the structure has the appearance of an earth mound; inside it are the treasures found in the Royal Tombs, which have been on exhibition since November 1997
Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Tourism