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Analysis confirms skeleton belongs to Philip II

Forty years after the bones of suspected royalty were found in Greece, experts have confirmed they belong to Alexander the Great's father, King Philip II.

Analysis confirms skeleton belongs to Philip II
The left leg of an adult male skeleton found in Tomb I at Vergina. The thigh bone (femur) 
and one of the bones of the lower leg (the tibia) are fused, and hole at the knee 
suggests a devastating penetrating injury [Credit: Javier Trueba]
Philip is known to have suffered a leg wound that crippled him three years before his assassination in 336BC.

Now researchers have found evidence of this injury, as well as signs of lameness, in the skeletal remains found in the tomb in Vergina, Greece.

They believe the female and infant found buried with the skeleton may also be the remains of King Philip II's wife Cleopatra and their newborn child.

King Philip II had Alexander the Great with his fourth wife Olympias.

He later met and fell in love with teenager Cleopatra Eurydice, the niece of his general Attalus and reportedly had two children - a boy called Caranus and a girl called Europa.

Europa was born just days before Philip's death.

Analysis confirms skeleton belongs to Philip II
The lower jaw of an adult male found in Tomb I. This jaw may belong to Philip II, 
father of Alexander the Great [Credit: Javier Trueba]
Philip was king of the Greek kingdom of Macedon from 359BC until he was assassinated in 336BC by the captain of his bodyguards, Pausanias, in the town of Aegae, now known as Vergina.

Upon Philip's death, Alexander became king at the age of 20.

In 1977 and 1978 two male skeletons were excavated in what were later dubbed Royal Tombs I and II in Vergina, central Macedonia in northern Greece.

Tomb I also contained another adult, believed to be female, and a newborn skeleton.

Since the discovery, many experts had assumed Philip was the male skeleton in Tomb II, and it is commonly referred to as the 'Tomb of Philip'.

But the skeleton bears no lesions to his legs that indicate lameness.

Analysis confirms skeleton belongs to Philip II
Portrait of King Philip II of Macedonia in his late years, after having received 
a wound to his left leg by a lance [Credit: Arturo Asensio]
And separate, anthropological studies have found evidence that Tomb II contains the remains of King Arrhidaeus and his wife Eurydice.

King Arrhidaeus was Alexander's half-brother who took the throne after Alexander's death.

Using scanning and radiography, anthropologist Juan-Luis Arsuaga and his colleagues from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Democritus University of Thrace, analysed the skeletal remains of both tombs.

The male skeleton in Tomb I was found to be 'strikingly tall' at around 6ft (180 cm).

He would have been approximately 45 years old when buried and his leg bones showed a stiffened knee joint and signs of bone fusion - a hole through the knee growth indicating it suffered a piercing wound.

There was also evidence of trauma-related inflammation, and asymmetrical bone lesions that suggest wryneck - a side effect of head tilting linked to having an uneven gait.

Analysis confirms skeleton belongs to Philip II
Leg bones of Queen Cleopatra, the wife of King Philip II 
of Macedonia [Credit Antonis Bartsiokas]
These findings are consistent with what the researchers know about the king.

Using the same technique, the researchers concluded that the other remains belonged to an 18-year-old female, and a newborn infant of unknown gender.

Following Philip's death, Alexander the Great's mother Olympias is said to have murdered both Europa and Caranus so her son could take the throne.

Cleopatra then took her own life.

Hence, the authors reason that the remains of King Arrhidaeus and his wife Eurydice, as previously suggested, are in Tomb II and King Philip II, his wife Cleopatra, and their newborn child - likely Europa - are the occupants of Tomb I.

A third tomb found in the mound had been looted but a wall painting of the Rape of Persephone remained along with bones.

Analysis confirms skeleton belongs to Philip II
Newborn child of Queen Cleopatra and King Philip II 
of Macedonia [Credit: Antonis Bartsiokas]
Professor Arsuaga said: 'The current view is that Philip II was buried in Tomb II. However, the male skeleton of Tomb II bears no lesions to his legs that would indicate lameness.

'The male individual in Tomb I displays a conspicuous case of knee ankylosis (stiffness) that is conclusive evidence of lameness. Right through the overgrowth of the knee there is a hole.

'There are no obvious signs that are characteristic of infection.

This evidence indicates the injury was likely caused by a severe penetrating wound to the knee, which resulted in an active inflammatory process that stopped years before death.'

He added this knee stiffness and the hole through it 'conclusively identifies Philip as the occupant of Tomb I'.

'Thus, a nearly 40-year-old mystery concerning the Royal Tombs of Vergina has finally been solved that puzzled historians, archaeologists and physical anthropologists', he continued.

The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Author: Victoria Woollaston | Source: Daily Mail Online [July 20, 2015]

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