Archaeologists slowly digging through a huge 2,300-year-old tomb in northern Greece have uncovered two life-sized marble female statues flanking the entrance to one of three underground chambers.

A Culture Ministry statement says the statues show "exceptional artistic quality." Their upper sections were discovered last week, but their bodies — in semi-transparent robes — emerged after part of a blocking wall was removed Thursday.

The excavation, on a hillock near ancient Amphipolis, 600 kilometers (370 miles) north of Athens, has gripped Greece for a month, since Prime Minister Antonis Samaras visited it and pre-empted archaeologists by releasing details on the findings.

A media frenzy ensued amid speculation that the tomb may contain buried riches and the remains of an eminent figure.

Less than half the tomb has been explored so far.