I am sure you have heard the big news already but I can't go without menton of it on the blog: analysis confirms that a skeleton found forty years ago in the royal tombs of Vergina belongs to Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. The tombs became internationally famous in 1977, when the Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos unearthed the burial site of the kings of Macedon.

The left leg of an adult male skeleton found in Tomb I at Vergina. The thigh bone (femur)
and one of the bones of the lower leg (the tibia) are fused, and hole at the knee
suggests a devastating penetrating injury [Credit: Javier Trueba]

Archaeologists were interested in the burial mounds around Vergina as early as the 1850s, supposing that the site of Aigai was in the vicinity. Excavations began in 1861 under the French archaeologist Leon Heuzey, sponsored by Napoleon III, however, the excavations had to be abandoned because of the risk of malaria. In 1937, the University of Thessaloniki resumed the excavations. More ruins of the nearby ancient palace were found, but the excavations were abandoned on the outbreak of war with Italy in 1940. After the war the excavations were resumed, and during the 1950s and 1960s the rest of the royal capital was uncoved including the theatre.

In 1977, Andronikos undertook a six-week dig and found four buried tombs, two of which had never been disturbed. Andronikos claimed that these were the burial sites of the kings of Macedon, including the tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great (Tomb II) and also of Alexander IV of Macedon, son of Alexander the Great and Roxana (Tomb III). This view was challenged by some archaeologists, but in 2010 research based on detailed study of the skeletons, vindicated Andronikos and supports the evidence of facial asymmetry caused by a possible trauma of the cranium of the male, evidence that is consistent with the history of Philip II. Now, research by a team of Greek researchers has confirmed that the bones indeed belong to the Macedonian King Philip II.

The Archaeology News Network reports that, using scanning and radiography, anthropologist Juan-Luis Arsuaga and his colleagues from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Democritus University of Thrace, analysed the skeletal remains of both tombs. The male skeleton in Tomb I was found to be 'strikingly tall' at around 6ft (180 cm). He would have been approximately 45 years old when buried and his leg bones showed a stiffened knee joint and signs of bone fusion - a hole through the knee growth indicating it suffered a piercing wound.

There was also evidence of trauma-related inflammation, and asymmetrical bone lesions that suggest wryneck - a side effect of head tilting linked to having an uneven gait. These findings are consistent with what the researchers know about the king as, in 345 BC, Philip conducted a hard-fought campaign against the Ardiaioi (Ardiaei), under their king Pluratus, during which he was seriously wounded by an Ardian soldier in the lower right leg.

Philip was king of the Greek kingdom of Macedon from 359BC until he was assassinated in 336BC by the captain of his bodyguards, Pausanias, in the town of Aegae, now known as Vergina.