Alexander the Great's "Crown," Shield Discovered?

Sara Goudarzi
for National Geographic News
April 23, 2008

An ancient Greek tomb thought to have held the body of Alexander the Great's father is actually that of Alexander's half brother, researchers say.

This may mean that some of the artifacts found in the tomb—including a helmet, shield, and silver "crown"—originally belonged to Alexander the Great himself. Alexander's half brother is thought to have claimed these royal trappings after Alexander's death.

The tomb was one of three royal Macedonian burials excavated in 1977 by archaeologists working in the northern Greek village of Vergina (see map of Greece).

Excavators at the time found richly appointed graves with artifacts including a unique silver headband, an iron helmet, and a ceremonial shield, along with a panoply of weapons and an object initially identified as a scepter.

"[Archaeologists] announced that the burial in the main chamber of the large rich [tomb] was that of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, who was assassinated in 336 B.C," said Eugene N. Borza, professor emeritus of ancient history at Pennsylvania State University.

But recent analyses of the tombs and the paintings, pottery, and other artifacts found there, suggest that the burials are in fact one generation more recent than had previously been thought, Borza said.

"Regarding the paraphernalia we attribute to Alexander, no single item constitutes proof, but the quality of the argument increases with the quantity of information," he said.

"We believe that it is likely that this material was Alexander's. As for the dating of the tombs themselves, this is virtually certain."

Tomb Mystery

The original excavation at Vergina was led by Manolis Andronikos, an archaeologist at Greece's Aristotle University of Thessaloniki who died in 1992.

His team found the first tomb to be a simple stone box containing human remains identified as a mature male, a somewhat younger female, and a newborn.

Tomb II, a large vaulted tomb with two chambers, contained the remains of a young woman and a mature male.

Continued on Next Page >>


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