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Scientific dispute over the tomb of Philip of Macedon

23 July 2015 / 15:07:13  GRReporter
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Last year Amfipoly was in the centre of scientific attention whereas this year it is again focused on Vergina. New publications with arguments and counterarguments that provide an answer to the question, or deny the view, as to which one the tomb of Philip of Macedon is in the Megale Tumba complex (Great Mound) in the ancient city of Aigai, have disturbed the scientific community, at the peak of the hottest political and economic crisis in Greece at that. The reason for this is the study of paleoanthropologists Antonis Bartsiokas and Juan Luis Arzuaga that the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has recently published. The study presents the findings of the analysis of the skeletal material from the first tomb in the royal burial complex. Yesterday, however, the Greek Ministry of Culture published an extensive report in which the Archaeological Service challenges this theory with the help of various historical data and findings from excavations.

The new study conducted at the Anthropology Laboratory of the Department of History and Ethnology of Democritus University of Thrace forms the view that the remains of the male skeleton belong to Philip of Macedon whereas the remains of the female and baby skeletons belong to the last wife of the Macedonian king, Cleopatra, and her daughter Europa. According to the report of the Ministry of Culture, this view "was proposed earlier by historian Eugene Borza, but was not accepted by the scientific community."

The study of the Thracian University concludes that Philip of Macedon was buried in the first tomb, rejecting the opinion of Manolis Andronikos who said that Philip of Macedon was buried in the second tomb. However, the third tomb is unanimously recognized as the tomb of Alexander IV, the son of Alexander the Great and Roxana.

Antonis Bartsiokas states for the newspaper Kathimerini, "The anthropological data identify with certainty the chronology of the tomb, and the palaeopathologic study shows that the bone with a hole in the knee belongs to Philip of Macedon. The data fully confirm the historical evidence since three years before his death (336 BC) the Macedonian ruler was wounded with a spear. There is already irrefutable evidence that the first tomb belongs to Philip of Macedon, his wife Cleopatra (the bone epiphysis indicates a woman aged 18 years) and their newborn baby, and the second tomb belongs to Philip III of Macedon," concludes Antonis Bartsiokas.

"The first tomb was robbed," the Archaeological Service objects. "The pottery found in the tomb certainly dates back the monument and burial to the last decades of the first half of the IV century BC to the year 350 BC at the latest. Philip of Macedon, however, was killed in 336 BC and Cleopatra a few months after the death of her husband, i.e. a period of time remains that is difficult, if not impossible, to fill."

According to the report of the Ministry of Culture, the bones of the dead "were found in the soil that had fallen into the tomb after the robbery." To the argument that the case is about a man at the age of about 45 who was wounded in the leg, the Archaeological Service responds that "neither the average age nor the limp are the exclusive characteristics of Philip of Macedon." As for the conclusion of Manolis Andronikos that the tomb of Philip of Macedon is the second in the royal burial complex, "all the new data from the excavations at Aigai confirm it, and many Greek and foreign archaeologists, historians and paleoanthropologists (Miltiades Hatzopoulos, Angeliki Kotaridi, Robin Lane Fox, J. Musgrave) have returned to it with many compelling arguments published in articles and studies after 2011."

How have the bones of Vergina found themselves at Democritus University of Thrace and how has Antonis Bartsiokas replied to the comments of archaeologists on "methodological flaws in the study process without the cooperation of the archaeologists who were in charge of the excavations and without comparison with the data from the findings"? "I took the management of the laboratory four years ago", he said, "and I found the bones from the first tomb in Vergina in a box among plenty of archaeological and anthropological material from various excavations throughout the country. I do not know how they had found themselves there. As for the study, I proposed cooperation to the archaeologists who led the excavations in Vergina (however refusing to name them) but they did not accept it. Furthermore, in a letter to the Ministry of Culture, I requested permission to investigate the archaeological material from Vergina but there was no response. As a head of the laboratory, I am legally obliged to do research. Therefore, I turned to a team of Spanish scientists of international standing and preferred to publish the study in the prestigious journal PNAS, not to report the results to the media, which would have challenged their validity."


Tags: Philip of MacedonTombScientific disputesBurial complex
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