Experts examining the findings at an Alexander the Great-era tomb near Amphipolis in the Macedonian region of northern Greece have identified bones from at least five people, the Culture Ministry said Monday.
According to a statement, the dead are a woman aged over 60, two men aged between 35 and 45, a newborn and a fifth person whose sex is proving harder to determine because he or she was cremated.
“Part of the analysis will look into a possible blood relationship… but the lack of teeth and cranial parts that are used in ancient DNA analysis may not allow for a successful identification,” the statement said.
The Hellenistic-era tomb, which lies inside a 3-meter-high mound with a perimeter of almost 500 meters – the biggest of its kind ever unearthed in Greece – was found to contain more than 550 bone fragments, of which 157 have so far been matched to the five individuals. Archaeologists also recovered a number of animal bones.
“The condition in which the bones were found indicates that they had been disturbed,” the statement said.
Monday’s announcement fueled speculation that one of the skeletons found at the site belongs to Olympias, mother of Alexander, who lived between 375 and 316 BC. Speaking to Kathimerini on Monday, Chrysoula Saatsoglou-Paliadeli, archaeology professor at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University, poured cold water on the speculation.
“I will not entertain assumptions that are not based on hard facts,” she said.
Also speaking to the newspaper, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at University of Crete Petros Themelis said that the burial site was “in disarray.” Analysis, Themelis said, should focus on the cremated remains which, he deems, most likely belonged to the earliest occupant of the tomb.