Monday, January 16, 2006

Whose tomb is this?

Today in my Ancient Civilizations class I purveyed some out of date and simply incorrect information about the tomb in Vergina in Macedonia attributed on its discovery in 1977 to Philip II of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great.

Incorrect: I said nothing was left of Philip but ashes. Actually, there was a skeleton found in the tomb, and analysis of the skeleton is key to any attempt to identify the occupant.

Out of date: In 2000, around the time I last taught this course, there was an article in the prominent journal Science, in which a new examination of the skeleton led the authors to reject the identification with Philip II and suggest instead that it was Alexander's obscure half-brother, Philip III. For details of the argument, see a summary at

A quick look at doesn't convince me that there really is enough information about the two top candidates to decide the issue. I am reassured to see, though, that it's still accepted that this is a tomb associated with the famous Macedonian dynasty.


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