Drama Erupts As Ancient Tomb Is Linked To Major Historical Figure In Contentious Study

Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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A review published in late 2023 is suddenly causing problems within the archaeology field because it claims an ancient tomb in Greece contains the remains of Alexander the Great’s father, half-brother, and son.

The review contributed to the “long-running debate” over the identities of three male remains housed in a trio of tombs at the “Great Tumulus,” a necropolis in Aegae, Greece, and was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. It argues the remains are kin to the King and Pharaoh Alexander the Great, a Macedonian leader and probably one of the most famous historical figures in the last two centuries, but that past studies on the identities of each occupant got it wrong.

It’s believed the bodies belong to King Philip II, his son with wife Roxana, Alexander IV, and his half-brother King Philip III Arrhidaeus. But which one is in each tomb?

Using a confluence of ancient writings and analysis of the remains, the archaeological team set about trying to identify each individual. “It was like a fascinating detective’s ancient story,” lead author Antonios Bartsiokas told Live Science.

Bartsiokas and his team believe Tomb I contains the remains of King Philip II due to evidence of a fused knee joint. King Philip II was lame, according to history, and was buried alongside his wives Queen Cleopatra (not the super famous ruler of the same name) and their newborn child. “This was the only newborn in the Macedonian dynasty to have died shortly after it was born,” Bartsiokas continued. “The age of the female skeleton at 18 years old was determined based on the epiphyseal lines [which show when the bone stopped growing] of her humerus. [This number] coincides with the age of Cleopatra from the ancient sources.”

So-called experts have apparently long argued that Tomb II contains the remains of King Philip II, Live Science noted. However the remains in Tomb II showed no physical trauma in the latest analysis, which is more representative of ancient literature and documentation on King Philip III Arrhidaeus. (RELATED: New Netflix Show Makes Ancient Hero, Like, Super Gay)

“Philip II is known from ancient sources to have suffered an eye injury that blinded him,” Bartsiokas noted. “I was surprised to find [the] absence of such an eye injury in the male skeleton of Tomb II, which was initially widely described as a real injury that identified Philip II. In other words, this was a case of a description of a morphologic feature that did not exist.” The remains in Tomb I didn’t show an eye-injury either.

Then again, as eyes tend to decompose, there’s every chance the remains wouldn’t show an injury. A plethora of previous studies claimed the remains in Tomb II showed a traumatic injury to the eye, which doesn’t make any sense unless you spend time around researchers and scientists and realize they’re more driven by ego than facts (a lot of the time). (RELATED: Ancient Discovery In Greece May Completely Rewrite The Human Story)

Macquarie University professor Ian Worthington, who wasn’t involved with the study, argued that there is evidence of “trauma around the eye of the skull in Tomb II,” according to Live Science. But he also said that “no identification of the deceased in Tomb II can ever be 100% compelling in light of present evidence, analysis and reasoned historical argument, but on balance, the tomb is most likely that of Macedonia’s greatest king, Philip II.” But then again, this guy wasn’t involved with the study, so I’m not really sure why Live Science used his opinion.

The one area of confluence within this new research and previous studies is that Tomb III belongs to Alexander the Great’s teenage son, who died shortly after his father.