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The Lameness of King Philip II and Royal Tomb I at Vergina, Macedonia

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The Lameness of King Philip II and Royal Tomb I at Vergina, Macedonia

Antonis Bartsiokas et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Abstract

King Philip II was the father of Alexander the Great. He suffered a notorious penetrating wound by a lance through his leg that was nearly fatal and left him lame in 339 B.C.E. (i.e., 3 y before his assassination in 336 B.C.E.). In 1977 and 1978 two male skeletons were excavated in the Royal Tombs II and I of Vergina, Greece, respectively. Tomb I also contained another adult (likely a female) and a newborn skeleton. 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. We investigated the skeletal material of Tomb I with modern forensic techniques. The male individual in Tomb I displays a conspicuous case of knee ankylosis 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 and osteomyelitis. This evidence indicates that 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. Standard anthropological age-estimation techniques based on dry bone, epiphyseal lines, and tooth analysis gave very wide age ranges for the male, centered around 45 y. The female would be around 18-y-old and the infant would be a newborn. It is concluded that King Philip II, his wife Cleopatra, and their newborn child are the occupants of Tomb I.

Keywords: Argead dynasty; Macedonia; Philip II; Vergina; paleopathology.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
The two maxillae from the Tomb I at Vergina. Individual 1 is a middle-aged male adult and Individual 2 is a young female adult.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Maxilla and mandible from Individual 1.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
Ventral (right) and symphyseal (left) views of the left pubic bone attributed to Individual 1.
Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.
Lateral view of the left leg of Individual 1 in flexion showing the massive knee ankylosis. The distal femur and the proximal tibia are fused together. The whole structure was found broken in two pieces that perfectly refit together: the upper part, which is mainly the left femur, and the lower part, which is mainly the outgrowth with the tibia. The two pieces are shown separately from one another in posterior view. The lateral views show the ankylosis in 79° of flexion. In the radiograph, note also the sediment that has filled the medullary cavity. The distance between the femur and tibia is 2.8 cm (i.e., by far greater than that in the normal bones). This means that the two bones were dislocated from each other. Note also the hole likely produced by a penetrating impact (upper right corner) and the radiograph of the knee ankylosis in anteroposterior view showing the hole below the level of the femoral condyles.
Fig. 5.
Fig. 5.
The two partial cranial bases found in Tomb I, the male (left) and the female (right). Note the marginal osteophytes caused by osteoarthritic remodeling in the right occipital condyle of the male that could be because of the postural consequences of the lameness.

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  • The Leg Wound of King Philip II of Macedonia.
    Brandmeir N, Payne R, Rizk E, Tubbs RS, Arsuaga JL, Bartsiokas A. Brandmeir N, et al. Cureus. 2018 Apr 18;10(4):e2501. doi: 10.7759/cureus.2501. Cureus. 2018. PMID: 29928561 Free PMC article.

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