Friday, 13 July 2018

Alexandria Sarcophagus

Construction workers on a building site in Alexandria, Egypt have made an incredible discovery, a black granite sarcophagus six feet high and ten feet long. It was buried in the late fourth century BC at the start of the Ptolomaic period when Egypt was ruled by a Hellenistic, Greek-style, kingdom until its annexation by Rome after the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC. An alabaster carving of somebody's head was buried next to the sarcophagus and this indicates that this was a high dignitary of the city. Unfortunately the sculpture has deteriorated to the point that it has no recognizable features so it will be impossible to identify the deceased until the coffin is opened; although it looks masculine with short hair. The grave has been left completely undisturbed since its burial almost two and a half thousand years ago. Source:

There will no doubt be some excited speculation about who the mysterious dead nobleman is and the possibility is open that this could be the long lost tomb of Alexander the Great. It is a huge mystery what happened to the famous Greek conqueror after his death in 323 BC at the tender age of thirty-two. Alexander the Great was a prince of Macedonia and was taught by the famous philosopher Aristotle. In just a few short years he managed to create an empire that spanned the majority of the known world. It covered Egypt, Turkey much of the Middle East and even what is today Pakistan. This empire did not last long, but it was extremely influential; for instance the city itself, Alexandria, is named after Alexander. The prince died of a fever in Mesopotamia, aggravated by a long-term drink-problem, and his body was embalmed by Egyptian mummy-makers. There was an argument among his relatives and political successors about where Alexander should be buried; eventually a tomb was constructed in Alexandria and this was maintained as a sacred site and venerated for six hundred years. What happened next is not well-understood, but in the fourth century AD Alexandria, like the rest of the Roman Empire, underwent a religious reformation under the Emperor Constantine. Christianity rose to dominance very quickly and this revolution involved the desecration of pagan places of worship. According to the previous religion, this included the Tomb of Alexander the Great. It is completely possible that Alexander's body was removed from the tomb by pagan rebels to save it from destruction. The fleeing pagans would have had to go underground and save as much as they could before the Christians wiped them out. When things had calmed down they may well have interred the prince somewhere else secretly. There are numerous rumours about where this second tomb might be and over a hundred and forty attempts to find it. It has become one of the biggest mysteries in history, similar to the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant. Could that quest soon be over? It will be a few weeks before the sarcophagus can be opened. The exhumation must be carried out under strictly controlled conditions to preserve the evidence inside. This will have to be done at the building site because the sarcophagus is too heavy to move. Inside the coffin, based on funeral conventions of the Ptolemaic Egyptian culture, we will probably find the deceased's valuable possessions, such as jewellery; and hopefully some written material explaining who the person was, a clay tablet or stone inscription. There might even be a portrait of the deceased on the mummy's wrapping. I saw a body like this in a museum. We will have to wait and see; I will post an update if the results are interesting.

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