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Greece Amphipolis: 'Five bodies' at Alexander-era tomb

Picture by Greek culture ministry from 19th January 2015 Image copyright Greek culture ministry
Image caption Bones were found of a woman in her 60s

Human bones found in an ancient Greek tomb belonged to at least five individuals, including an elderly woman and a child, officials say.

The Greek culture minister said there would be further tests on the finds at Amphipolis, near Thessaloniki, to see if they were related.

The discovery of bones has led to intense speculation surrounding the Alexander-era site.

Experts have suggested it might belong to one of his generals or a relative.

The ministry said the remains belonged to:

  • a woman in her 60s who suffered from osteoporosis and was about 1.57m (5ft 1in) tall
  • a newborn child of unspecified sex
  • two men aged between 35 and 45, the youngest of whom died of a stab wound, and between 1.62m and 1.68m
  • and a fourth adult whose corpse - unlike the others - had been cremated
Image copyright Greek culture ministry
Image caption Some of the other bones found were of a newborn child

Some 550 bone fragments were found and so far 157 of them have been matched to the humans. There were also animal remains inside the tomb.

It is not clear when each of the five individuals died, when they were buried or whether the tomb had been built for all of them.

The excavations at Amphipolis uncovered three vaulted chambers behind a facade decorated with two big marble sphinxes.

Inside, archaeologists found a pair of caryatids - larger-than-life statues of young women - and a mosaic pavement depicting the abduction of the goddess of Persephone by Hades, king of the underworld.

The tomb is thought to date from 325BC, shortly before Alexander the Great's death, and 300BC.

The dig has enthralled many Greeks ever since Prime Minister Antonis Samaras visited the site last August and described it as "an exceptionally important discovery".

Alexander himself was buried in Egypt although the precise location remains a mystery.

He built an empire from modern Greece to India. As his generals fought over his legacy, Alexander's mother Olympias, his widow Roxana, son and half brother were all killed, most of them near Amphipolis.

Image caption A sketch of the tomb

Amphipolis site

  • 437 BC Founded by Athenians near gold and silver mines of Pangaion hills
  • 357 BC Conquered by Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great's father
  • Under Alexander, served as major naval base, from which fleet sailed for Asia
  • 1964 First official excavation began, led by Dimitris Lazaridis

Image copyright Greek culture ministry
Image caption Two sphinxes guard the entrance to the tomb at Amphipolis

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