Archaeologists May Have Been Wrong About Where Alexander The Great's Father Was Buried

A new study causes controversy about the location of King Philip II's tomb.
DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI via Getty Images

The mystery of where Alexander the Great's father, King Philip II of Macedon, is buried just got more mysterious.

Philip II was assassinated in 336 B.C., and his young wife Cleopatra Eurydice -- who was not Alexander's mother -- and their newborn child were killed shortly after.

Many archaeologists had thought that Philip II was buried in the so-called "Tomb of Philip," which was discovered in Vergina, Greece, in the late 1970s. At the time, three tombs known collectively as the Royal Tombs in the Great Tumulus were excavated, and Tomb II was identified as housing Philip II's remains.

But a new study suggests that the king may have actually been buried in the adjacent tomb, Tomb I.

To conduct the study, which was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an international team of researchers used scanning techniques and radiography to analyze the skeletal remains of the man buried in Tomb I. The researchers noticed that the leg bones showed signs of having suffered from a penetrating wound. The wound appeared strikingly similar to one that Philip II is believed to have suffered 2,000 years ago, according to ancient texts that mention the injury.

Check out Science magazine's video, below, describing the leg injury.

"When I found the femur fused to the tibia at the knee joint, I suddenly remembered the leg injury of Philip, but I could not recall any details," Dr. Antonis Bartsiokas, the study's lead author and an associate professor at the Democritus University of Thrace, told Live Science. "I then ran to study the historical evidence ... I knew the bone must belong to Philip!"

The leg injury wasn't the only wound that the researchers analyzed. Science magazine reported that the skeleton in Tomb I also displayed damage to the skull, which the researchers linked to an injury that Philip II is believed to have received when an arrow left him blind in his right eye.

Based on this analysis, the researchers concluded that Philip II is the occupant of Tomb I, along with Cleopatra and their baby.

Who is buried in Tomb II, then? The study suggests the occupants may actually be King Arrhidaeus (Philip II's son and Alexander the Great's half-brother) and his wife, along with some of Alexander's armor.

However, not everyone is convinced that the bones in Tomb I are those of Philip II.

Some researchers say that the ancient texts about the king's injury may not be reliable, and argue that more research is needed.

"This publication in PNAS is incorrect," Dr. Theodore Antikas, head of the anthropological research team at Aristotle University, told Live Science. He continues to believe that Philip II was buried in Tomb II,

According to Antikas, there are other bones from Tomb I that the researchers were not able to study, since they were moved after the discovery of the tomb from Vergina to a museum in Thessaloniki.

In a letter that Antikas wrote to the editors of PNAS, which he shared with The Huffington Post, he argues, "Only by having all bones from Tomb I studied ... the mystery of the identity of the occupants of Tomb I may be resolved. The study by Bartsiokas et al on the identity of the dead, based on insufficient material evidence, is far from resolving it."

But the researchers are confident in their new findings.

"I think that we have made a very strong case," Dr. Juan-Luis Arsuaga, a co-author of the study and professor at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain, told Live Science. "Now the focus of attention will turn to Tomb I. I am open to debate."

Go To Homepage

Before You Go

Popular in the Community