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The burial mask of Philip II discovered

08 October 2014 / 13:10:52  GRReporter
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Greek archaeologists have discovered pieces of the mask which Macedonian king Philip II wore as chief priest in the Orphic mysteries. The debris have been found in Tomb II in the capital of the Macedonian kingdom of Aigai (modern Vergina).

The traces of minerals huntite and porphyry in the 350 bones found in the two gold boxes (larnax) confirm the theory that an artfully constructed mask which he used during his lifetime had been put on the face of the dead man before he was placed on the funeral-pile. This was performed as a tribute and in recognition to his contribution.

The new finds as well as those discovered in the last 4 years of excavation will be presented at a ceremony at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki by the Interdisciplinary Group of University Excavations in Vergina.

The statements of the head of research and director of the Laboratory of Archaeometry at Democritus Institute, Yannis Maniatis, who discovered the huntite and the porphyry on the bones and believes that it is related to a mask, arouse interest. "It was a very complex structure created by many layers and fabric, which we find for the first time in the region of Macedonia. We have found 6-7 layers ​​of huntite and porphyry. This is the mask that Philip wore during religious ceremonies, probably as a priest in the Orphic mysteries. The mask was a personal and sacred object that accompanied the deceased in the grave and was burned with him or her", says the researcher for Ethnos newspaper.

The study of the debris performed so far dispels the theory that it was a piece of cloth, with which bones had been wrapped before they were burned. However, it is still not clear where the huntite mineral which is extremely rare came from.

The archaeologist Dimosthenis Kehayas who is studying the prints of fabric found on the bone material found, has conducted a similar study. His prior research is focused on the remains of crimson-coloured cloth with which the bones of the dead were wrapped. This is a very ancient practice, which however was rare in Ancient Macedonia.

At the same time, at the ceremony in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki anthropologist Theodore Antikas will present new findings on the skeletons found in the tomb, from which it becomes completely clear that the dead people are Macedonian king Philip II and the daughter of the Scythian king Atheios.

The anthropological analysis of the bones showed that the man had suffered from chronic sinusitis and probably had had serious vision problems, while the degenerative changes show that he had been a 41-49 year-old rider. In addition, a wound has been found on the left hand. A fact which Demosthenes mentions in one of his famous speeches.

As regards the female bones found in tomb II, the study showed that they belonged to a woman aged about 32 years, whose left leg had been broken and she had been lame. According to data, the woman had been an experienced rider and warrior. This is evidenced by the rich armoury of spears, arrows and quiver that have been found in her grave.

These findings exclude the possibility of the so far popular assumptions that the woman was Cleopatra or Meda (wife of Philip II) and Eurydice (wife of Philip III Arrhidaeus) and reinforce the theory that it was a daughter of the Scythian king Atheios, whose name is not known.

Read more about the finds at Vergina in the interview of the lecturer of archaeology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and head of the university excavations, Chryssoula Saatsoglu - Paliadeli for GRReporter.

Tags: History archaeology excavations Vergina mask Philip II
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