Seven Mysteries… plus one bonus

MSNBC recently posted the top seven mysteries of history still being investigated by archaeologists.

1. What happened to Amelia Earhart? (Plane crashed in some islands, but location unknown)

2. Where are Antony and Cleopatra buried? (No clue, but artifacts are turning up)

3. Where is Genghis Khan buried? (Palace was found recently so its likely he’s nearby)

4. Did the Donner Family really resort to cannibalism? (They at least ate the dog and likely nibbled on some of the dead)

5. Where is Billy the Kidd buried? (Likely Texas or Arizona, New Mexico grave was not his)

6. Where is Christopher Columbus buried? (Seville, with his Brother)

7. What happened to the Tsar’s family? (Dead, all of them)

If you read the article you will see that most of these questions have actually been addressed. The common trend is that all the mysteries revolve around individuals and mortuary sites. So while the public may show outrage at our plea to exhume bodies and dig up old cemeteries, we’re still holding their interest.

Currently another one of these types of ‘celebrity’ burials is under examination. Like the finding of DaVinci or the solving of King Tut’s cause of death, the current debate is over one of the kin of Alexander the Great. The burial was attributed to Arrhidaios, Alexander’s half brother, however the descriptions of his burial and what was known about him at the time of his death do not match the mortuary context or skeletal remains. Further research shows that it is more likely that the remains belong to Phillip II, Alexander’s father. Musgrave (2010) shows that given the destruction of the facial bones in the skull, the age at death, and the overall burial context, it is not Arrhidaios. Future investigation will address whether it truly is Phillip II.

One of the problems of these ‘celebrity’ burials is that they are often biased to begin with. There is a certain amount of flexibility in bioarchaeological interpretation, and the inferences made from skeletal remains must be taken under scrutiny. It is important that regardless of who we may think the burial is, that we take a self-reflexive approach and avoid subjectivity as much as we possibly can.

Works Cited

MSNBC. 2010. Seven deep mysteries of history.

Musgrave. 2010. The Occupants of Tomb II at Vergina. Why Arrhidaios and Eurydice must be excluded.

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