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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 February 2006, 19:40 GMT
Greek tomb find excites experts
Alexander the Great was ruler of Macedonia
The tomb is thought to be from the time of Alexander the Great
Archaeologists in Greece say they are examining the largest underground tomb ever found in the country.

They said a farmer had stumbled across the tomb carved into the rock near the ancient city of Pella, the birthplace of Alexander the Great.

Archaeologists believe it dates to the period after Alexander's death, which was marked by mass power struggles.

The tomb was probably used by a noble family about 2,300 years ago - some of whose names are still visible.

Archaeologists said that the eight-chambered tomb was significant in style. It is accessible through a 16-metre entrance.

Rich family

Funeral tombs found earlier in Greece contained no more than three chambers.

Carved into rock, the new find is reported still to retain part of its internal wall colouring of red, light blue and gold.

It is believed that the tomb has been looted over the years. However, jewellery, copper coins and earthen vases were still found in the chambers, along with inscribed tombstones with the names still visible.

"This was a very rich family," archaeologist Maria Akamati told Reuters news agency. "This is rare as the cemetery is full of plebeians," or commoners.

She said at least seven people had been buried there.

The tomb was discovered by the farmer on agricultural ground close to the ancient cemetery in Pella.

The city was once the capital city of the Macedonian kingdom, which was ruled by Phillip of Macedon and later by his son Alexander the Great, who died in 323BC.

The period after Alexander's death was marked by power struggles and intrigues between the royal family and Alexander's generals battling for control of his empire.

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