In Mystery Greek Tomb, Bones From 5 Corpses

Among the remains found at Amphipolis: newborn, 60-year-old woman
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 19, 2015 2:45 PM CST
Bones in Huge Greek Tomb From at Least 5 Corpses
This picture provided by Greece's Culture Ministry, Oct. 20, 2014, shows the head of a marble sphinx, which adorned the entrance of a 4th-century-BC tomb under excavation at Amphipolis in Greece.   (AP Photo/Greek Culture Ministry)

A giant tomb found in Greece's Macedonia region over the summer contains more than simply sphinxes and a mosaic. Researchers say bones found at the ancient Amphipolis site are from at least five people—including a newborn and a 60-year-old woman, the country's Culture Ministry said in a statement today. According to the AP and Reuters, the remains of the woman and baby were found with bones from two men ages 35 to 45, as well as those of a fifth person who had been cremated. Although initial reports speculated that Alexander the Great may have been among the occupants of the tomb (dating between 325BC and 300BC, with Alexander's death in 323BC), some scientists wonder if the bones belong to Alexander cronies—perhaps one of his generals, his wife Roxana, or even his mom, Olympias (though AFP reports the ministry last month pooh-poohed the Olympias theory.)

The Culture Ministry said 157 human bone fragments out of the 550 found so far have been matched with specific bodies; animal bones were also found. Scientists also discovered evidence of looting: "The condition in which the bones were found indicates that they had been disturbed," the ministry stated, though the scavenging could have happened as far back as the second century BC. Although only one of the corpses lends a clue to his demise—chest marks suggest a deadly knife or sword wound—DNA testing will be carried out to see if the corpses may have been kin. "Part of the analysis will look into a possible blood relationship … but the lack of teeth and cranial parts ... used in ancient DNA analysis may not allow for a successful identification," the ministry statement said. (Researchers say that remains in a Vergina tomb were those of Alexander the Great's dad.)

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