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Trending Science: Skeleton found in recently discovered ancient Greek tomb

A skeleton has been found by archaeologists excavating the recently discovered Amphipolis tomb near Thessalonki, Greece, raising the question - are these the remains of a Macedonian royal related to Alexander the Great?

The intact skeleton, unearthed in November 2014, was found in a hidden burial compound, a fact that the Minister of Culture in Greece believes points to the deceased being a prominent figure. BBC online news quotes chief archaeologist Katerina Peristeri as saying, ‘the tomb in all probability belongs to a male and a general’. DNA testing may be able to reveal the height, sex and age of the person buried around 2.5 thousand years ago. Archaeologists are discussing the idea of comparing DNA material from the Amphipolis skeleton with that discovered in the Royal Vergina tomb to see if the bodies are related. The Vergina tomb, found in Northern Greece, was the burial site of the kings of Macedon including Phillip II, father of Alexander the Great. However, online news site Ekathimerini reports Lina Mendoni of Greece’s Ministry for Culture as saying the tests would not be easy to carry out. The remains in Amphipolis had been burned and those at Vergina were discovered more than 50 years ago, when conservation procedures were less advanced. In the meantime, speculation abounds regarding the identity of the tomb’s owner. Other evidence uncovered by the archaeological team , such as the sheer size and elements of the design, point to the influence of Alexander the Great’s chief architect, Dinocrates of Rhodes. The Amphipolis tomb dates from the late 4th century BC, when Amphipolis was a major city of the kingdom of Macedon, and was discovered in 2012. It was first entered in August 2014 and is the largest burial monument ever discovered in Greece. The burial vault, found 1.6 metres under the floor of the tomb’s third chamber, is 4 by 2.1 metres and was sealed with limestone. When that was cleared archaeologists found a large, limestone sarcophagus which had once housed a wooden coffin. The coffin had long since disintegrated, leaving behind the bronze and iron nails once used to seal it. Researchers also found scattered bone and glass fragments, probably used to decorate the coffin. This latest find is one of many, according to the Amphipolis tomb’s official website. Two marble sphinxes, 2 meters tall and missing their heads and wings, guard the main entrance to the tomb, at their feet is a fresco with its paint still visible. Beyond the entrance lies the antechamber where two caryatids (pillars in the form of female sculptures) support the opening. The total height of these statues is 3.67 metres. The third chamber was closed off with a massive marble door, found in pieces on the ground by researchers who believe this, and the lack of grave goods in the tomb, indicate the burial site has been robbed in the past. The head of one of the sphinx, and parts of the wings, was found in the third chamber, the floor of which is decorated with a mosaic of Persephone being abducted by the god Pluto. For further information, please visit: