Ancient Greek tomb contained at least 5 corpses, experts say
This undated handout image released by the Greek Culture Ministry on Monday, Jan. 19, shows pictures of bones and their position, in black, on a human skeleton believed to belong to a woman aged over 60, from a resplendent ancient tomb excavated in northern Greece last year. (AP / Greek Culture Ministry)
Nicholas Paphitis, The Associated Press
Published Monday, January 19, 2015 7:05AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 19, 2015 4:51PM EST
ATHENS -- Human bones found in a resplendent ancient tomb in northern Greece belong to at least five individuals, including an elderly woman and a baby, Greek officials said Monday.
The announcement by the Culture Ministry further muddles a high-profile excavation hampered by unrealistic expectations and political attention.
The three-month dig at ancient Amphipolis, 600 kilometres (375 miles) north of Athens, has uncovered three vaulted chambers behind a facade decorated with two big marble sphinxes. Inside, archaeologists found a pair of larger-than-life statues of young women and a mosaic pavement depicting the abduction of the goddess Persephone by Hades, king of the underworld.
It is unclear when each of the five individuals died or were buried and even whether the tomb had been built for them all.
The thoroughly plundered tomb has been dated to between 325 B.C. -- two years before the death of ancient Greek warrior-king Alexander the Great -- and 300 B.C., although some archaeologists think it could be considerably later. Experts speculated it could have been built for a general or a relative of Alexander's, who himself was buried in Egypt.
Monday's announcement said the human bones belonged to a woman in her 60s who suffered from osteoporosis and hormonal problems, a newborn child of unspecified sex, two men aged 35 to 45, the youngest of whom died of stab wounds, and a fourth adult whose corpse -- unlike the others -- had been cremated.
Further testing is expected to date the remains and establish whether the dead were related.
Chief excavator Katerina Peristeri, who backs the buried general theory, initially insisted the grave was not plundered but changed her mind after the burial chamber was found looted.
Alexander, who built an empire from modern Greece to India, died in Babylon and was buried in the city of Alexandria, which he founded. The precise location of his tomb is one of the biggest mysteries of archaeology.
His generals fought over the empire for years, during wars in which Alexander's mother, widow, son and half brother were all murdered -- most near Amphipolis.