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ISAAC 2023 Greece trip photo diary

In September 2023, the ISAAC Mobile Lab team embarked on a 3 week "tomb-tastic" research trip to Northern Macedonia, Greece. Here, we share some of the photo highlights of the trip :)

After arriving in Thessaloniki late on Saturday night, we spent Sunday exploring the area, taking in the views and enjoying the sun!

Some very happy Scientists and some beautiful views!

In week one, we visited two different sites in Thessaloniki; the Macedonian tombs at Aghios Athanasios and Foinikas, as part of a collaboration with the National Hellenic Research Foundation and the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, to understand the pigments used in the decoration. A summary of the sites, which both date to the 4th Century BC, can be found in Tsimbidou -Avlonitou, 2013.

An unassuming entrance at Aghios Athanasios belies the richly decorated tomb it protects. Here, setting up the equipment on the metal steps down to the original tomb entrance, we used several different types of remote, standoff analysis to capture pigment data on the murals, including PRISMS, Hyperspectral Imaging, SWIR scanning, remote Raman and remote LIF.

Another day, another tomb- the Macedonian Tomb of Foinikas, which was discovered in 1987. Here, we followed a similar analysis regime, setting up equipment on the modern steps and on a secure ledge above the steps, to conduct remote, non-invasive data capture to identify the pigments used and aid conservation of the monuments.

For the second week we moved our analysis equipment to Vergina, a small town in Northern Greece. Vergina has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996. Formerly known as Aigai, the town was the first capital city of the ancient kingdom of Macedon, where Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, was killed in 336 BC. Here, the underground Museum of the Royal Tombs contains Philip II's decorated tomb, which was discovered, un-looted, in 1976. Details of some of the objects found, and a description of the hunting frieze on the façade of the tomb can be found in Franks (2012). The frieze is in a degraded state, with pigment loss to the surface making it difficult to fully appreciate the cultural depiction or the artistry and materials involved in its creation on a royal tomb. Identifying the pigments here will aid a reconstruction of the original appearance using the correct materials.

The painted hunting frieze on the façade of Tomb II, belonging to Philip II of Macedon.

Taken from Franks (2012), Figure 4a p 6-7.

A particular challenge for our IPERION HS Molab project at this site was to conduct the analysis whilst the museum remained open to the public- and indeed it presented an opportunity to demonstrate how the remote instrumentation can be set up and used unobtrusively. Here, we used our remote Raman spectrometer to analyse the hunting frieze through the protective glass in front of the tomb, and conducted remote SWIR scanning while visitors could observe the process as part of their experience.

Remote SWIR scanning of the hunting frieze on the tomb of Philip II, Vergina, during visiting hours.

Raman scanning of the hunting frieze through the protective glass.

Our final destination was Ioannina, north west Greece, to conduct analysis of post-Byzantine icons at the Byzantine Museum, in collaboration with the University of Ioannina, the Ioannina Ephorate of Antiquities and West Attica University.

Ioannina in the morning

Left: SWIR Hyperspectral Imaging system; Middle: PRISMS imaging and Right: SWIR scanning of different Byzantine Icons.

SWIR imaging showed some interesting underdrawings!

After a whirlwind tour of the archaeology and museums of Northern Greece, we're heading back home to NTU to analyse the results!


Analysis was conducted at Aghios Athanasios courtesy of the Ephorate of the Periphery of Thessaloniki;

Analysis at Foinikas was courtesy of the Ephorate of the City of Thessaloniki;

Analysis at Vergina was courtesy of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Emathia;

Analysis at all three sites was part of a collaboration with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports.


Tsimbidou - Avlonitou, M. 2013. The Macedonian Tombs at Phoinikas and Aghios Athanassios (Thessaloniki/Greece): Two astonishing funerary monuments of the 4th c. BC. in Interior decoration in the Eastern Mediterranean during Hellenistic and Roman times. Mosaics, paintings, iconography, materials, techniques and conservation, NARNIA Project Training Course, University of Nanterre (Paris/France). (accessed 1.10.23)

Franks, H. M. 2012. Hunters, Heroes, Kings: The Frieze of Tomb II at Vergina (Vol. 3). The American School of Classical Studies at Athens. (accessed 1.10.23)


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