New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
Two bronze greaves of different lengths on display in the Onassis Cultural Center’s exhibition in 2004, “Alexander the Great: Treasures from an Epic Era of Hellenism” were thought to belong to Alexander’s father, Philip II of Macedon, one greave shorter than the other to accommodate the king’s maimed leg, one of his many injuries, according to Demosthenes.
But riding hard and wearing armor weren’t exclusive to the male sex.
New finds on the cremated remains in Royal Tomb ΙΙ at the Great Tumulus of Aegae (present-day Vergina), point to Philip II and a woman whose leg bones, like Philip’s had excessive equestrian activity indicators. A Scythian princess, a horsewoman-archer, she rode for a long time, as had Philip, and had an injured leg shorter than the other; her greaves were there to prove it. And she carried the golden Scythian quiver, arrowheads, and spears placed in the antechamber of the tomb with her, in battle almost two and a half centuries ago.
In a recent lecture, “New Finds on the Skeletons from Royal Tomb ΙΙ at the Great Tumulus of Aegae: Morphological and Pathological Alterations”, Theodore Antikas, Head of the Anthropological Research Team of the Vergina Excavation, Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, talked about his forensic study, backed by CT scans, scanning electron microscope and Χ-ray Fluorescence scans, which revealed that the two individuals in Royal Tomb II were cremated in-flesh, and established the man as 41-49 and the woman 30-34 years at death. His findings went toward their identification, as Philip II, King of Macedon, and his Scythian wife, his 7th.
“Theo gave a great lecture to a packed audience,” Dr. Katerina Lagos, Professor of History and Director of the CSUS Hellenic Studies Program at California State University Department of History, told the GN “Over 80 people attended and it was standing room only in the back. He spoke about Tomb II and how the remains were indeed Philip II’s… but with new findings, not for the reasons that were previously circulating. He also analyzed the remains in great detail along with the woman’s body found in the antechamber. She was a Scythian in her mid-30’s; Theo proved that Philip was the only one who would have had relations with a Scythian princess.”
The Scythian theory also strengthens Philip II’s identification as the occupant of Tomb II, said Antykas, “No Macedonian king other than Philip is known to have had ‘relations’ with a Scythian.”
Morphological alterations in the bones indicate she was cremated just after her death. Examination of a pelvic bone fragment that wasn’t seen or identified by previous researchers was extremely important in the complex identification process, and provided further evidence for the dead man being Philip II, said Antykas. That she was 30-34 years of age, basically excludes every other wife-concubine of Philip II, he said.
Antykas has said that his team analyzed and identified 70 bones out of hundreds of fragments of inhumed individuals. Tomb I contained the remains of at least seven individuals, a find that “automatically disproved” previous hypotheses that Tomb I was intended for Philip II and his last wife.
In March 2014, five more royal tombs were discovered in Vergina, possibly belonging to Alexander I of Macedon and his family or to the family of Cassander of Macedon.
The ancient city lying on the north slopes of the Pierian mountains is securely identified as Aigai. Archaeological evidence proves that the site was continuously inhabited from the Early Bronze Age and became an important center, rich and densely inhabited in the Early Iron Age. The city reached its highest point of prosperity in the Archaic and Classical periods, when it was the most important urban center of the area, the seat of the Macedonian kings and the place where all the traditional sanctuaries were established. It was already famous in antiquity for the wealth of the royal tombs, which were gathered, in its extensive necropolis.
The first excavations in Vergina were carried out in the 19th century by the French archaeologist L. Heuzey and were resumed in the 1930’s, after the liberation of Macedonia, by K. Rhomaios. After World War II, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the excavations were directed by M. Andronicos, who investigated the cemetery of the tumuli.
The splendid weapons of King Philip II, his solid gold coffin (larnax), and his almost surreal, shimmering, gold oak leaf crown are among the finds from the excavations exhibited in the protective shelter over the royal tombs of Vergina and in the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki. The Larnax is made of 7,820 gr. of hammered pure gold. Its lid is decorated with a 16-rayed star symbol of Vergina and two rosettes, the inner of which is filled with blue enamel. On the side relief palmettes and lotus buds frame five enameled rosettes on the sides. The feet are decorated with rosettes and end in lion-paws. The gold oak crown is the heaviest and most impressive wreath surviving from Greek antiquity. It has 313 leaves and 68 acorns and weighs 714 gr.