Cleopatra’s murdered sister?

An team of Austrian archaeologists think they may have found the remains of Cleopatra’s younger sister Arsinöe in a tomb in Ephesus, Turkey. Anthony and Cleopatra had Arsinöe was assassinated on the steps of the temple of Diana in Ephesus to eliminate a potential threat to their throne.

The tomb in question was discovered in 1926, the skull of its inhabitant removed and measured by the scienticians at the time. It was lost during World War II, though, so all that’s left is the skeleton in the sarcophagus.

In the early 1990s Thür reentered the tomb and found the headless skeleton, which she believed to be of a young woman. Clues, such as the unusual octagonal shape of the tomb, which echoed that of the lighthouse of Alexandria with which Arsinöe was associated, convinced Thür the body was that of Cleopatra’s sister. Her theory was considered credible by many historians, and in an attempt to resolve the issue the Austrian Archeological Institute asked the Medical University of Vienna to appoint a specialist to examine the remains.

Fabian Kanz, an anthropologist, was sceptical when he began this task two years ago. “We tried to exclude her from being Arsinöe,” he said. “We used all the methods we have to find anything that can say, ‘Okay, this can’t be Arsinöe because of this and this’.”

After using carbon dating, which dated the skeleton from 200BC-20BC, Kanz, who had examined more than 500 other skeletons taken from the ruins of Ephesus, found Thür’s theory gained credibility.

Here’s the thing, though. It’s all really, really tenuous. Facial reconstructions based on 80 year old measurements of a skull that no longer exists, a vague 200 year date range and unusual tomb shape that might or might not refer to a lighthouse that also no longer exists are evidence of pretty much nothing in my book.

Add to that the ludicrous “Cleopatra was part African” spin based on the 1920′s measurements that suggest an elongated skull and it really gets goofy.

There’s no evidence that Cleopatra and Arsinöe were full sisters, so even if the ethnicity claims about the skeleton are true and it can somehow be confirmed that the remains are Arsinöe’s — two highly unlikely scenarios — that would say exactly nothing about Cleopatra’s ethnicity.

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9 Comments »

Comment by sv
2009-03-16 02:28:20

Sounds like the Austrians are hearing hoof beats and thinking zebras.
Budgets must be coming up for renewal.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-03-16 07:26:42

No kidding. And there’s a sensationalist BBC “documentary” to air.

Comment by sv
2009-03-16 11:14:16

seriously?
Thats it not paying the t.v license any more.
wow, kinda negative today.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-03-16 17:46:59

Understandably so. There’s plenty of bah humbug to go around on this story. :facepalm:

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Comment by Mike
2009-05-03 09:00:18

The phenomenon of ascribing uniquely African characteristics to people who are, ultimately, as much a part of the Mediterranean as anywhere, is part of the same reductionist, pseudo-nationalist nonsense that drove a certain Native American tribe to claim Kennewick Man and deny him to the Smithsonian, or the Chinese to decapitate Uighur mummies with caucasoid skull types.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-07-01 11:39:00

I’m not sure the Kennewick Man controversy is aptly placed under the reductionist, pseudo-nationalist umbrella. There are other issues in play there — ancestor worship, the religious bond to a specific geography, the long history of callous treatment of native human remains — that don’t quite match the Afrocentrism and Sinocentrism of the other two examples.

 
 
Comment by Anonymous
2010-10-23 10:56:38

woah freaken werid!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! but lets dance :boogie: but if your a chiken cakadoddle do! :chicken: :lol: :lol: :lol: but that is sad and scary! :skull: :skull: :skull: :skull: :( :( :( :( :( :( :(

 
Comment by Steve
2011-06-09 17:38:48

I saw a documentary on this. I believe it was on NatGeo TV. One thing that wasn’t mentioned was that the tomb was found in the heart of the city (basically Main St). This was extremely rare for the time and area. Most burials were done outside of the city. That was one reason they thought it was a prominent figure buried there

 
Comment by livius drusus
2011-06-09 17:58:44

That’s a good point, but I would think the size of the tomb alone would be enough to suggest that someone of wealth and standing was buried there. I don’t see how they’re ever going to come close to confirming, or even strongly supporting the theory that it’s Arsinöe, though.

 
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