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New Theory In Bones Linked To Alexander The Great
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON, April 20 (Reuters) - A skeleton thought to be that of Alexander the Great's father, Philip of Macedon, is no such thing, a researcher said on Thursday.

He thinks the skeleton, unearthed in the Northern Greek farm village of Vergina in 1977, is actually that of one of Alexander's half-brothers.

Features in the skull thought to be the scars left when an arrow blinded King Philip II, a known historic incident, are actually just normal anatomical quirks, anthropologist Antonis Bartsiokas reports in this week's issue of the journal Science.

Bartsiokas used a technique called macrophotography to take close-up pictures of the bones and then examine them carefully. He said what was thought to be a nick is a normal irregularity, and what previous researchers thought was a fracture caused by the arrow hitting Philip's cheekbone was probably a crack caused by the fire that cremated the body.

"Therefore, the skeleton does not belong to Philip II," Bartsiokas wrote in his report.

"New skeletal evidence shows that the skeleton belongs to King Philip III Arrhidaeus," he added. "In this case, the tomb may well contain some of the paraphernalia of Alexander the Great."

When the site was discovered at what used to be the ancient Macedonian capital, anthropologists and historians were thrilled. Inside were rich goodies such as diadems, scepters, helmets, shields and, best of all, a marble sarcophagus containing the almost complete skeleton of a man.

It had been cremated but the bones were virtually intact.

Alexander the Great was a warrior king who campaigned as far east as India. He succeeded to the Macedonian throne after his father Philip was stabbed to death, at the peak of his glory, while attending a procession.

Much is known about both men, but no one knew where they were buried. The discovery of Philip's tomb by Greek archeologist Manolis Andronikos was a windfall to historians.

Bartsiokas, who works at the Anaximandrian Institute of Human Evolution in Voula, Greece, said Andronikos had at first dated the tomb to 336 B.C., which would suggest that it had been Philip's.

"However, mounting archeological evidence that points to a date around 317 B.C. suggests that the tomb belongs to King Philip III Arrhidaeus, son of Philip II and half-brother of Alexander the Great," he wrote.

He decided to take a close look at the bones.

"The bone pathology of the male skeleton is crucial as to the identification of the occupant ... because it is historically known that Philip II, being a warrior, suffered many wounds whereas Arrhidaeus, being unwarlike, suffered none," Bartsiokas wrote.

"These wounds of Philip II would undoubtedly have left their mark on his skeleton. For example, his right clavicle (collarbone) was shattered with a lance in 345 or 344 B.C., a wound to his right femur (thighbone) was nearly fatal and left Philip II lame three years before his death, and another wound maimed his arm."

The most important wound was the arrow that struck his right eye and partly blinded him.

The only evidence of injuries found on the skeleton was the alleged eye damage, and Bartsiokas said his careful examination shows the structures were not healed injuries.

He is also an expert on how bone looks before and after cremation and said it looked to him as if the skeleton had been buried, dug up and then cremated -- which matches historical accounts of the treatment of Arrhidaeus's body.

 
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