Cleopatra’s murdered sister Princess Arsinöe was a rival for the Egyptian throne, some 2000 years ago, and stories say Queen Cleopatra had her killed. Archeologists and forensic scientists believe they have pieced together more details of the assassination, reports NBC News on Tuesday, Feb. 26. An Austrian team headed by Dr. Hilke Thur, from the Austrian Academy of Science, has identified an ancient skeleton of a murdered young woman as the princess, although not all scientists agree. Dr. Thur is lecturing in North Carolina this week.
The bones were found in Ephesus, Turkey. That location makes perfect sense, because the princess was under exile with the occupying Roman forces in that city, at the supposed time of her death. But the bones, themselves, have been discovered, lost and rediscovered in the past.
Few details have emerged about the state of the skeleton or a probable cause of death, but violence is likely. Nor it is clear whether or not the two daughters of Ptolemy XII were full or half sisters. Records indicate that Cleopatra may have had her sister murdered by her Roman lover, in 41 B.C.
Of greater interest to modern scholars is the ethnicity of both sisters, and now Arsinöe’s can be partially established. The Ptolemeic Dynasty was of Greek-Caucasian descent, but the female skeleton shows some African DNA in the mixture. Whether or not that was also true of Cleopatra depends upon whether or not the two princesses had the same mother, and upon how many factors in the skeletal DNA have been contaminated. A reconstruction of the skull will provide further clues.
And a documentary will soon air, outlining the story of the discovery. Archaeologist Neil Oliver said: “Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Mark Antony... they are all iconic figures from history. It's almost impossible to remember they were real people and not the semi-mythical figures portrayed by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.” Science and history, coming together, can make the past real.