There has been vehement disagreement among archaeologists concerning the origins of the vault of 'Macedonian tombs'. The opinion of some that this feature should be attributed to foreign models has been refuted by the results of research: thus, it appears that the 'Macedonian tombs' were the outcome of a lengthy process of evolution which began with the traditional cist graves.
The larger cist tombs of Aiane and Vergina of the 5th century BC are the first instances of burial structures which present problems as to their roofing because of their larger than normal dimensions. There follows the tomb of Katerini, dated to before the mid-4th century BC, which combines the double-chamber of a 'Macedonian tomb' with the horizontal ceiling of a cist grave.
The tomb of Persephone, of the mid-4th century BC, is a cist tomb of particularly extensive dimensions with a horizontal roof of stone slabs resting on planks. These large cist tombs of the 5th and 4th century BC attest the tendency in the ruling classes of Macedonia for monumental burial constructions.
After various experiments to find the safest manner of roofing these large spaces, builders arrived at the solution of the barrel-vaulted roof. The roof of the earliest 'Macedonian tomb', that of 'Eurydike', dated to circa 340 BC, is vaulted. However the whole tomb is encased in a rectangular construction, indicating that the builders were probably not confident of the strength of the vault.
A further stage in the evolution of the 'Macedonian tombs' is represented by one of the tombs of Vergina, which is the only one with a free-standing colonnade. The final stage of evolution is seen in the Tomb of Philip.