Greek Tomb Held at Least Five Corpses

It wasn't just a single skeleton that lay buried in the mysterious, lavishly decorated tomb in Amphipolis in northern Greece. Continue reading →

It wasn't just a single skeleton that lay buried in the mysterious, lavishly decorated tomb in Amphipolis in northern Greece.

Dating to between 325 B.C. -- two years before Alexander the Great's death -- and 300 B.C., the burial contains the remains of at least five individuals, the Greek culture ministry said on Monday.

Skeleton Emerges From Mysterious Greek Tomb

Deepening the mystery as to who the burial was dedicated to, the much awaited announcement came at the end of an extraordinary archaeological exploration that winded through huge decapitated sphinxes, walls guarded by colossal female statues, and floors decorated with stunning mosaics.

The excavation seemed to have approached its natural conclusion three months ago, when a team led by Katerina Peristeri unearthed a skull and other skeletal remains from limestone grave buried deep beneath the tomb's floor.

But what appeared to be the tomb's sole occupant turned to be a composition of 550 bones. Of them, 157 are human bones, while the other material belong to animals bones, including those of a horse.

The five individuals were identified as being a woman, two men, a newborn baby and a cremated adult whose gender could not be verified.

"Most of the bones unearthed in the tomb can be attributed to the female individual ... She was over 60 years old and about 5 feet, 1.5 inches tall,"

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The younger of the two men, aged about 35, was 5'5" tall and had traces of cut marks in his left chest - most likely lethal injuries caused by a sharp instrument, such as a knife or a small sword.

The older man, aged 45 and 5'3" tall, featured a fully healed fracture in his right radius, close to the right wrist.

Both men suffered from degenerative osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, and spondylitis, which causes inflammation in the spine or vertebrae.

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The researchers could not determine the sex of the fourth individual, a newborn infant. They were also unable to establish the age and gender of the fifth cremated person. However, the few burnt fragments indicate it was an adult individual.

Greek officials refrained from any speculation on the identities of the five individuals and stressed that further analysis need to be carried out.

"Part of the investigation will look into a possible blood relationship," the ministry said.

But officials noted that the lack of teeth and cranial parts, which are used in ancient DNA analysis, may not allow for a successful identification.

Image: Bones belonging to the 60-year-old woman in the Amphipolis tomb. Credit: Ministry of Culture.