Greek Ministry of Culture: Archaeological Excavations And Historical Facts about Philip II’s Tomb

Greek Ministry of Culture: Archaeological Excavations And Historical Facts about Philip II's Tomb


It was recently published in the American journal ”Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)” a paleoanthropological study by Mr. A. Bartsiokas and Mr. Juan Luis Arsuaga , concerning bones that have been found in the cist tomb (Tomb I) of the Royal Burial Cluster, excavated in the ’70s by the late professor Manolis Andronikos in the Great Tumulus at Aigai. In this study Mr. A. Bartsiokas and Mr. Juan Luis Arsuaga claim that the male skeletal remains belong to Philip II, while the female and infant skeletal remains belong to the last wife of the king of Macedon, Cleopatra and her daughter Europe. The same had been proposed earlier by the historian E. Borza but it was not accepted by the scientific community.

Although there is an abundance of relevant scientific publications, because the theme is of particular interest to the public, it is necessary, in order to avoid confusion and misunderstandings, to provide in summary the following archaeological-historical data necessary for the proper understanding and thus the interpretation of specific findings:

1. Mr. A. Bartsiokas and Mr. Juan Luis Arsuaga examined part and not all of the bones found in the Tomb I.

2. The Tomb I of the Great Tumulus at Aigai, is a monument that has the form of a cist (box-shaped )and it is the smallest and less monumental tomb of the Royal Burial Cluster, which also includes two large unplundered Macedonian Tombs (Tomb II recognized by Manolis Andronikos as the tomb of Philip II and Tomb III unanimously attributed to Alexander IV, son of Alexander the Great and Roxane) and a third Macedonian Tomb looted and heavily damaged (“The free standing columns Tomb”), dating to the early 3rd c. BC which is the latest dated of the cluster.

3. The cist Tomb I, in the interior of which is preserved the fresco depicting the abduction of Persephone, was plundered, but it contained several clay vessels, safely dating the tomb and the original burial in the last decades of the first half of the 4th century. BC, with the upper limit in 350 BC. However, as is well known from the ancient written sources, Philip II was assassinated in 336 BC, and his wife Cleopatra was executed a few months after his death. Thus there is a substantial period of time that is difficult if not impossible to bridge.

4. The bones of the deceased that this study attempts to link with Philip II, in particular the bones of the legs (shins and the ossicles of the foot) were not found on the floor of the tomb, like the bones of a woman and her neonate, but they were found about 20 cm higher of the original burial, on a layer containing stones and limestone fragments, within the soil of backfill that came into the grave after its looting. The fact of finding bones in connection with each other, belonging to a shin , signifies “articulation”, i.e. the presence of muscle tissue that hold them altogether, and eliminates the possibility that these bones came from the disturbance of the original burial (the woman’s body was completely dissolved and her bones were found mixed and gathered in two groups on the mortar of the floor). It is obvious that the body of the deceased to whom these bones belong are deposited or “rejected” in the grave after the looting of the tomb, which, as the stratigraphy indicated, is associated with the destruction and plunder of the neighboring overground “Heroon”.

5. The destruction of the royal necropolis of Aigai is a historical fact attested by the ancient written sources and has absolutely confirmed by the archaeological excavations. It is a fact happened in 276/5 BC, when the Gauls mercenaries of Pyrrhus occupied the ancient Metropolis of the Kingdom of Macedon. As indicated by the findings of the debris (pottery, coins etc.), the Great Tumulus which covered the cluster of royal tombs and sealed the looted tomb I and the remains of “Heroon”, which is right next to it, was built before the mid-3rd century BC . Thus, the incident with the dead man who was placed or “rejected” in the looted cist Tomb I must have happened between 276/5 and 250 BC. It is worth noting that similar phenomena of “rejection” of dead men have been noticed in other looted tombs of royal clusters of Aigai and has already been suggested by the excavators the possibility that such skeletons belong to tomb robbers.

6. The dead is not crimated, however, as evidenced by the ancient sources and demonstrated by the very rich archaeological findsof Aigai, since the early 6th century BC, cremation in grand pyres with burial offers is the norm for the Macedonian kings, a custom which during the reign of Philip II and Alexander the Great expanded to the Royal Companions.

7. The argument on which Mr. A. Bartsiokas and Mr. Juan Luis Arsuaga support their interpretation is the claim that the person is about 45 years old with trauma to the leg. The average age or lameness are not exclusive identification characteristics of Philip II. On the contrary the data from the excavation make the proposed identification unlikely. The man, whose bones were found in the tomb I could not be Philip II or any other member of the royal family. Apparently the tomb belongs to the woman. Her baby according to the first scholar who studied the bones, Professor J. Musgrave, was fetus or newborn, so it is likely that the woman died in childbirth. The link with a woman reinforces both the thematic of the wall paintings -Abduction of Persephone, Demeter, Moires- and the grave goods found in the tomb -fragments of jewelry, perfume bottles, marble seashells-shaped vessels and the complete lack of weapons or weapons fragments.

It is not impossible that the woman was one of the first wives of the King of Macedon who is buried at the nearby Tomb II and identified by Manolis Andronikos with Philip II, an identification which is enhanced by all the latest excavation data from Aigai. Numerous explicit arguments, published in series of studies and articles from 2011 onwards by Greek and foreign archaeologists, historians and paleoanthropologists, like M. Hatzopoulos, A. Kottaridi, Robin Lane Fox, J. Musgrave et al. reinforce this identification with Philip II.

Related posts: