Skeleton Hints at Cleopatra's African Heritage

But experts point out holes in BBC documentary's claim
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2009 3:49 PM CDT
Skeleton Hints at Cleopatra's African Heritage
Actress Blake Lively from, "Gossip Girl," left, is dressed as Cleopatra as she and host Martha Stewart, dressed as Medusa, prepare a cake, Oct. 31, 2008, in New York.   (The Martha Stewart Show)

Egyptian queen Cleopatra may have been of African rather than Greek ancestry, new findings suggest. A BBC archaeological documentary claims to have found the tomb of Cleopatra’s sister, Arsinoe, in Ephesus, Turkey. Arsinoe, who, according to legend, was killed on orders from her sister, had skull dimensions consistent with African ethnicity, perhaps from her and Cleopatra’s mother.

But many experts are skeptical about the sensational claim, Nature’s Great Beyond blog reports. Nothing definitively identifies Arsinoe as the inhabitant of the tomb except proximity to the temple where legend says she was murdered, notes a Cambridge classics professor. In addition, the skull was destroyed in World War II so “the new conclusions rely on the measurements of the skull left by the first excavators,” she writes. (More Cleopatra stories.)

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