Romans in China Redux

Folks who follow me on Twitter (for whatever reason) know that I spent much of yesterday returning to using Thunderbird as my email program of choice, during the course of which I came across assorted things which I had put aside to check out later, etc.. Among those items was the oft-repeated story about people from the Chinese village of Liqian being descended from Crassus’ troops. Every couple of years, we’d get a story — such as this one from ANSA back in 2005, this one from Xinhua from 2005, and this one from the Telegraph back in 2007 — in which we’d hear about genetic tests to prove or disprove such. It seems the testing was done and the results were published, but for some reason, the press doesn’t seem to have been interested in them (near as I can tell).

Here’s the relevant abstract:

The Liqian people in north China are well known because of the controversial hypothesis of an ancient Roman mercenary origin. To test this hypothesis, 227 male individuals representing four Chinese populations were analyzed at 12 short tandem repeat (STR) loci and 12 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP). At the haplogroup levels, 77% Liqian Y chromosomes were restricted to East Asia. Principal component (PC) and multidimensional scaling (MDS) analysis suggests that the Liqians are closely related to Chinese populations, especially Han Chinese populations, whereas they greatly deviate from Central Asian and Western Eurasian populations. Further phylogenetic and admixture analysis confirmed that the Han Chinese contributed greatly to the Liqian gene pool. The Liqian and the Yugur people, regarded as kindred populations with common origins, present an underlying genetic difference in a median-joining network. Overall, a Roman mercenary origin could not be accepted as true according to paternal genetic variation, and the current Liqian population is more likely to be a subgroup of the Chinese majority Han.

… oh well.

This Day in Ancient History

ante diem xi kalendas maias

  • Parilia (a.k.a. Palilia) — originally a festival in honour of Pales (who protected shepherds and their flock), it eventually evolved — in the city of Rome, at least — into a ‘birthday of Rome’ celebration
  • 753 B.C. — traditional date for the foundation of Rome
  • 43 B.C. — pro-Caesarian forces “under” Octavian defeat the forces of Marcus Antonius at Mutina
  • 148 A.D. — Antoninus Pius celebrates the 900th anniversary of Rome
  • 248 A.D. — Philip Arabus celebrates the 1000th anniversary of Rome

Cleo’s ‘Tomb’ ~ Further Thoughts

This one’s starting to bother me, even though I’ve now seen the ‘mask’ being identified with varying degrees of certainty as ‘possibly’ Marcus Antonius. A correspondent sends in a nice video from the site (from a German version of Reuters; the video is in English), which I can’t embed, so here’s the link. What I find interesting here is that a year ago Zahi Hawass had the alabaster head and mask available to him and by June was saying in Al Ahram that “We have found nothing that indicates the presence of Cleopatra’s or Anthony’s tomb.” In the video, what appears to be causing Hawass’ change of face is the discovery of twenty or so rockcut tomb/burials near the temple, which he believes indicates the presence of the burial of someone “important” nearby. We then get a very good example of petitio principis in the claim that “no one would be buried beside a temple without a reason”. Let’s see, Dr. Hawass … do you think the connection between Isis and the burial/resurrection of some other well-known Egyptian divinity might not cause folks to want to be buried near her temple if possible (why is Augustus’ mausoleum in the same general area as the Isaeum in the Campus Martius, he said, thinking out loud. I’ll track that one down later)?  Why do these burials have to be connected to Tony and Cleo? Then come the artifacts found last year … we’ll note in passing that it’s interesting that the alabaster head has a hole drilled in it (why?).

That said, I’ve had correspondence with various folks (who desire to remain anonymous) on this and another question which seems to be bothering folks is the nature of the non-Hawass archaeologist’s — i.e. Kathleen Martinez’ —  qualifications. An AFP piece has also recently landed in my mailbox which makes you go hmmmmm:

The team, led by antiquities chief Zahi Hawass and Kathleen Martinez, an Egyptologist from the Dominican Republic, hopes that the site around the ancient temple of Taposiris Magna, erected to honour the Egyptian god Isis in around 300 BC, will soon reveal the legendary lovers’ final resting place.
The team has worked there for three years — the latest in a chain of digs since an expedition by Napoleon in the 19th century.
Martinez says that the find of a carved male head, a fragment of a mask with a cleft-chin, coins and other artifacts prove that this is Anthony’s burial site.
And she is convinced that Cleopatra’s body also lies somewhere on this rocky outcrop overlooking the Mediterranean, 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Alexandria.
“There are historic proofs in the works of (Roman chronicler) Plutarch where he says Cleopatra was buried with Mark Anthony,” Martinez said.
A lawyer by training, Martinez said that trying to unravel the fate of the doomed lovers began as a hobby but has now become what Hawass said could be “one of the most important discoveries of the 21st century.”
Martinez said she “always had the conviction that the tomb of Anthony and Cleopatra was in this temple. We have been looking for the right tunnels, but so far we have only found the entrance to other chambers.
“I studied Cleopatra for 14 years, and I came up with the idea that her death was a religious act, to be bitten by this asp and buried in this temple, so I started searching for the temple,” she said.
“She couldn’t be buried in a different place from Mark Anthony and be protected by Isis.”
The theory was initially disparaged by experts, and after five years of research, it took another year for Martinez to get approval to dig.
But today even Egypt’s antiquities supremo Hawass enthusiastically endorses the hypothesis, which could lead to the greatest discovery in the country since Howard Carter found the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun in 1922.
Martinez admitted that “beginner’s luck” may have played a part, as her team found a major clue in the form of a clay fragment linking the site to Isis just inches from where Hungarian archaeologists stopped working four years ago.
Using ground-penetrating radar, her own expedition discovered two large subterranean chambers and an intriguing passageway.

Well at least she wasn’t guided by snakes, but I’m finding it difficult to follow all the claims of evidence we’re being given now; Hawass’ petitio principis is building on Martinez’. And all of a sudden we’re hearing about a “carved male head” — photo please. And as for this “clay fragment” linking the site to Isis, that’s a first as well. It might be salutary to reference a National Geographic photo that was circulating last May:

National Geographic Photo

National Geographic Photo

The item in the upper left was identified as a bronze statue of Aphrodite (and, of course, Aphrodite and Isis are equatable); why isn’t that being mentioned in this context?

Whatever the case, one of my anonymous correspondents also suggests checking out Vörös, Gyozo (ed.), Taposiris Magna, (Egypt Excavation Society of Hungary  Publications).  My correspondent recalls an “Isis” (as it’s “identified” there) having previously “published” in one of the volumes and is now in  the possession of Martinez. I have no access to this, so if anyone out there would like to wade in on this, please leave a comment (or drop me a line if you wish your comments to remain anonymous).

Cleo’s Tomb Update: the Anthony Photo

This just in as I’m putting together Explorator … Reuters has entered the ‘Cleopatra’s Tomb’ hype with an article that includes an interesting slide show, among which is:

Reuters Photo

Reuters Photo

… presumably the alabaster Cleopatra, the coins, and — most importantly — the mask I’ve been curious about for over a year. Here’s another photo with the mask in the hands of an omnipresent Egyptologist:

Reuters Photo

Reuters Photo

The cleft in the chin is what is being used to tie this to Marcus Antonius, apparently.  So let’s compare … here’s a damaged bust which is possibly MA:

From UTexas

From UTexas

The cleft is definitely there … what I find interesting though, is that a granite statue identified as Marcus Antonius in the Greco Roman Museum in Alexandria (which I can’t find a ‘free’ photo of) doesn’t have this cleft. Some revisionism will be necessary either way, I suspect.

Dryden Portrait of Interest

Getting a smattering of attention this week is a piece about a portrait of John Dryden, which was recently put on display at the National Portrait Gallery. Of interest to us — besides the fact we all know about his translating of epics and the like — is this bit from the Guardian:

The portrait is by the court painter John Michael Wright, who completed it in 1668, the year Charles II made Dryden the country’s first formal poet laureate. Inscriptions from six Latin poets – Virgil, Horace, Martial, Juvenal, Ovid and Statius – are carried on the picture’s cartouche, or oval surround. The main inscription reads Par omnibus Unus – One [poet] a match for [them] all.

The latter quote can be seen in the NPG photo of the portrait (which appears with assorted croppings in the news coverage) … not sure if it’s meant to be a reminiscence of Georgics 3.244: amor omnibus idem :

from the National Portrait Gallery

from the National Portrait Gallery

The ‘omnibus’, of course, would be Vergil, Horace et al, but alas, I can’t find a photo with any of the other inscriptions and it isn’t mentioned at the NPG page. FWIW, the NPG has a pile of portraits of Dryden

The Spartafication Continues

Hmmm …  first we had the 300 workout, designed to get our abs (etc.) looking like some guys hanging out at Thermopylae, now we hear (via amicus noster John McChesney-Young) that there’s an actual Spartan Diet program … although the rogueclassicist could stand to embark on both of these, I suspect he won’t in the very near future (although he does take grapeseed extract for allergy reasons and has already recognized the importance of coffee for the Spartans) …

Performing Thucydides

This one was mentioned on the Classics list last week but I didn’t note by whom (apologies) … Some excerpts from a lengthy piece in the San Antonio Current:

Our cities grow in size, our awareness of the world around us increases, technology steadily advances, but some things remain immutable, chief among them human nature. The cliché says those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, but perhaps it’s less a problem of knowledge than our own inherent failings and short-sightedness. Though airwaves abound with cop reality shows and courtroom dramas, crime abides. Ancient religious teachings continue to be used as justifications for violence. And, despite the many fruitless wars revisited in texts dating back thousands of years, we still plunge into quagmires with logic-defying frequency, suggesting rationality has nothing to do with it at all.

These are a few of the insights gleaned from Athens v. Sparta, a fascinating 15-track musical condensation of the Peloponnesian War based on Thucydides and Xenophon’s recounting of the conflict. A combination pop-opera, Greek drama, modern allegory, and historical CliffsNotes created by Trinity University history grad and musician Charlie Roadman, the album resonates on several levels and is likely unlike anything you’ve ever heard. It details how Athens’ cultural hubris, faltering democracy, self-serving oligarchs, indifference to its allies, and ill-considered military adventurism resulted in a war doomed by poor prosecution and overextended forces.


The album intersperses narration from Thucydides’ text, read by Ken Webster, creative director of Austin’s Hyde Park Theatre, with singing by Kevin Higginbotham and atmospheric backdrops painted with guitar strums, effervescing loops, skittering beats, and shimmery washes of melody that melt easily into the woodwork. Roadman fashioned the music from the contributions of 19 musicians who call either Austin or San Antonio home. He describes it as “downtempo pop,” and it isn’t far removed for electronic chill-out music, giving the 2,400-year-old history lesson a ghostly futuristic sheen.

The album’s genesis goes back to 1991, when Roadman and Buttercup singer Erik Sanden were assigned Thucydides and Xenophon’s couple-thousand-page tome, and blew off reading it until three days before the final. Justifiably concerned, they crammed by reading alternate chapters then recounting the events to each other, effectively halving the assignment. The story stuck with them, and eight years ago Sanden bought Roadman the definitive edition of the text, The Landmark Thucydides, edited by Robert Strassler.

This encouraged Roadman to write a song about Pericles’ funeral oration, a rabble-rousing rant that provoked the Athenians into war, reminding them of their glorious history and suggesting that “judging happiness to be the fruit of freedom, and freedom of valor, never decline the dangers of war.” It was still more a lark than obsession at this point. “I was just writing songs about whatever amused me, history, news, or National Geographic,” Roadman says.

A few years later, he wrote another song based on the Peloponnesian War, “Life in the Spartan Army,” and then another, and decided to dedicate an entire album to the war. Comparing it to Christo wrapping the Reichstag, he admits that, “I pretty much knew it was an absurd thing, and that’s what attracted me to it. Just the absurdity of doing something I was laughing about the second I thought about it.”

The finished product impressed everyone involved, many of whom had only played on part of the album, and hence couldn’t see the big picture. Roadman held an initial CD release in Austin, which sold out and concluded with a standing ovation. Webster echoes many of the participants when he says, “I didn’t know there would be that kind of an audience for it.”
This is Roadman’s hope as well. He’s already booked to play the Texas Classical Association Conference in Austin in October, and is considering putting together a study guide to go with the disc. He’s hoping that it will engender more conference invitations. “That sort of appeals to me, because, after playing, instead of sleeping in a van we get to stay in a nice hotel,” he says.[...]

Olympians Up To Their Old Tricks?

Double take headline of the week was:

Catherine Keener Has A Baby With Zeus

… which now appears to have been “corrected” to:

Catherine Keener Has A Baby With Poseidon

I suspect the watery one is just covering up for the well-known proclivities of his brother, who probably just wants to avoid another Europa … Io … Semele … Callisto (etc.) type situation … Of course, given what Poseidon is said to have fathered, CK might be worried in either case …

Scylla and Charybdis Origin?

A piece on the discovery of a vast colony of black coral in the Straits of Messina (which will, no doubt, affect Berlusconi’s bridge plans … and also makes me wonder if we’ll soon be hearing of some shipwreck discoveries), has an interesting closing bit:

The town of Scilla, near the site of the coral discovery, was described by the ancient Greek writer Homer, as being home to a six-headed sea monster named Scilla. The monster flashed three rows of sharp teeth in each of its six heads and rumbled along on 12 feet.

Not not far from Scylla’s cave, on the opposite Sicilian shore, lived another sea monster, Charybdis, who sucked passing ships into its vortex along that narrow stretch of water.

Together, Scylla and Charybdis made the Strait of Messina one of the Mediterranean’s most insidious passages: ships sailing there were almost certain to be destroyed by one of the monsters. Could the black coral have contributed to the region’s lore? Perhaps only indirectly, said Salvati.

“Indeed, there are very strong currents right where the black coral was found. I doubt there could be a direct link with the myth since the coral grows too deeply to be seen from the surface. However, many unknown marine species appear to live at that depth,” Salvati said.

Adrienne Mayor, a folklorist who authored “The First Fossil Hunters,” a book which explores the connection between Greek and Roman myths and the fossil beds around the Mediterranean, found the discovery of black coral colonies near the mythical Scylla “intriguing.”

“Ancient authors such as Aristotle, Vergil, Pliny and Pausanias described the Mediterranean as the home to many different species of sea monsters, giant octopus and squid,” Mayor told Discovery News. “Giant eels were reported by tuna fishermen between 1740 and the early 1900s — maybe they live in the deep underwater ravines lined with black coral!”

Mary Beard on Roman Publishing

Our favourite Cambridge Don has a nice piece in the New York Times on getting published in ancient Rome … here’s a tease:

Bookstores in Rome clustered in particular streets. One was the Vicus Sandalarius, or Shoemakers Row, not far from the Colosseum (convenient for post-gladiatorial browsing). Here you would find the outsides of the stores plastered with advertisements and puffs for titles in stock, often adorned with some choice quotes from the books of the moment. Martial, in fact, once told a friend not to bother to venture inside, since you could “read all the poets” on their doorposts.

For those who did go in, there was usually a place to sit and read. With slaves on hand to summon up refreshments, it would have been not unlike the coffee shop in a modern Borders. For collectors, there were occasionally secondhand treasures to be picked up, at a price. One Roman academic reported finding an old copy of the second book of Virgil’s “Aeneid” — not just any old copy but, the bookseller assured him, Virgil’s very own. An unlikely story maybe, but one that persuaded him to part with a small fortune to acquire it (rather more, in fact, than the combined annual wages of two professional soldiers). The risks on cheaper purchases were different. A cut-price book roll would presumably have fallen to pieces as quickly as a modern mass-market paperback. But worse, the pressure to get copies made quickly meant that they were loaded with errors and sometimes uncomfortably different from the authentic words of the author. One list of prices from the third century A.D. implies that the money needed to buy a top-quality copy of 500 lines would be enough to feed a family of four (admittedly, on very basic rations) for a whole year. If you settled for an inferior job, you could get a 20 percent discount.

… we’ll see how many Classicists grumble when they read “millenniums” … personally, I’ve always wondered how many literate Romans actually ‘read’ as opposed to having someone read to them (and not even in a ‘performance’ sense). If I think about it too hard, I start thinking of the ancient literate slave as the Roman equivalent of an iPod Touch, with a longer battery life.

Iliad Reading with a Twist

Here’s a worthy project I could see Latin/Classics clubs adapting and/or emulating … from the Indy Star:

Latin students from North Central High School will use the tale of an ancient war to launch their own modern war on poverty.

From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday at Kids Ink Bookstore, 56th and Illinois streets, Indianapolis, there will be two dozen students taking turns reading Homer’s Greek classic about the Trojan War, “The Iliad.”

Students under the leadership of Latin teacher Steven Perkins have collected pledges of five cents per line of poetry read aloud; there are 700 lines in the English translation by Stanley Lombardo. Readers will wear specially made T-shirts designed by North Central student Zoe Smith.

Kids Ink will extend its hours for the day and will provide a donation box for visitors to contribute, as well. Proceeds will go to the Shepherd Community Center in downtown Indianapolis.

To learn more about Reading the War on Poverty, visit

Roman Bath at Bankso

This one — from FYROM/Macedonia probably has more bona fides lurking in it than claims of Alexander’s tomb … from Balkan Travellers:

Detailed archaeological excavations began at the thermal Roman bath in Bansko near the south-eastern Macedonian town of Strumica.

The site is being studied and analysed so that a project for its complete reconstruction could be made, according to the director of the Strumica Institute and Museum, Slavitsa Taseva.

“I hope that by the end of this year, we’ll have results that we can present to the public,” Taseva told the Dnevnik daily newspaper.

So far, during excavations of the thermal Roman baths, which – according to Taseva, are unique to the Balkans because of the way water was heated from a natural spring, a total of 11 premises were discovered, with an overall area of 623 square metres.

Of them, the most preserved are the sauna and cool-water pool with the half-dome over the bath.

Already unearthed in the locality were a number of artefacts, including a marble statue, bronze figures of the god Mercury, sculpture pedestals, objects of a unique mosaic, ceramic objects and another complex near the thermal baths, Taseva added.

The excavations and the reconstruction will contribute to the complete definition of the site, which dates back to the Late Roman period and was constructed more than 16 centuries ago.

The current excavations at Bansko, funded by the Macedonian government, are carried out by a team of the Institute for the Protection of Monuments of Culture and Museum in Strumica.

This Day in Ancient History

ante diem xvi kalendas maias

  • ludi Cereri (day 5)
  • 43 B.C. — Octavian (the future emperor Augustus) is hailed as Imperator for the first time
  • 69 A.D. — suicide of the emperor wannabe Otho (this might have occured on April 17)
  • 1928 — death of Jane Ellen Harrison (Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion among others)

Not the Ides

I really wish our friends to the south would lobby the powers that be to change their tax-due-date from April 15 to something more sensible (say, April 30, like it is up here in the Great Overcast North). Every year, without fail, there will be some journalist who will write something along the lines of:

The prophets warned Caesar to beware the Ides of March (March 15), but most Americans shiver at the mention of the Ides of April. As other prophets have assured, only two things are certain: Death and taxes. The Ides of March assured Caesar’s death, and the Ides of April assures that we’ll be paying taxes up to and beyond our own final days.

… which keeps popping up in my box from the Valdosta Daily Times. Of course, non-American Classicists wonder why there might be this grave fear of April 13th (which is when the Ides of April falls), but we know better. Let’s all join hands Wholike and merrily chant:

In March July October May
The Ides fall on the fifteenth day

… we’ll leave the Nones bit off and hope folks can figure out the Ides of April ain’t the fifteenth.

Cleopatra’s Tomb Again!!

Okay … this is a long-developing story. Last year — almost to the day — Zahi Hawass was all excited about some major underground tomb at Tabusiris Magna; it seemed to be building on something announced a couple of years before that. A month later, we were pretty much getting the same story. Then we learned that the archaeologist in charge — Kathleen Martinez — had found an alabaster head of Cleo. In June, 2008, we heard pretty much the same. Then (in an item which didn’t get much attention) Dr. Hawass was saying there was nothing remotely connected to Tony and Cleo at the site. After that, we didn’t really hear anything … until today, of course. My mailbox is overflowing with coverage of this, but as most of the info seems to stem from an AP wire story, we’ll give the incipit of one version:

Archaeologists next week will begin excavating three sites in Egypt near the Mediterranean Sea that may contain the tombs of doomed lovers, Cleopatra and Mark Anthony.

In a statement Wednesday, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities said the three sites were identified last month during a radar survey of the temple of Taposiris Magna as part of the search for the lovers’ tombs.

The temple is located on Lake Mariut which is today called Abusir, near the northern coastal city of Alexandria, and was built during the reign of King Ptolemy II (282-246 B.C.)

Teams from Egypt and the Dominican Republic have been excavating the temple for the last three years.

The celebrated queen of Egypt and her lover, a Roman general, committed suicide after being defeated in the battle of Actium in 31 BC. Ever since, questions have lingered over where the lovers’ bodies are buried.

Excavators have also found a number of deep shafts inside the temple, three of which were possibly used for burials. The leaders of the excavation believe it’s possible Cleopatra and Mark Anthony could have been buried in a deep shaft similar those already found, according to the statement.

Last year, archaeologists at the site also unearthed a bronze statue of the goddess Aphrodite, the alabaster head of a Queen Cleopatra statue, a mask believed to belong to Mark Anthony and a headless statue from the Ptolemaic era at the excavation site.

The expedition also found 22 coins bearing Cleopatra’s image.

There’s nothing here we haven’t heard before including this mysterious “mask believed to belong to Mark Anthony”. This detail is also mentioned in a press release posted at Dr. Hawass’ site (which may be the source of the AP coverage), but is described in a bit more detail:

Among the most interesting finds is a unique mask depicting a man with a cleft chin. The face bears some similarity to known portraits of Mark Antony himself.

The mask was also mentioned in coverage last May — in a piece with a slideshow depicting the ‘alabaster statue’ (maybe), but I have still yet to see a photo of the mask. Methinks there’s some movement afoot to deflect attention from all that Arsinoe business (or perhaps build on it) …

UPDATE (04/18/09): Giles Coren has an interesting oped piece in the Times on how  this drive to get the ‘truth’ (about things like Cleo, the Shroud of Turin, etc.) via archaeology “diminishes” us as humans — the idea being that we are asking questions we don’t really want the answers to. I think, however, we need to distinguish between searches for things like the tomb of Cleopatra (or even Alexander) by legitimate archaeologists from the fringe types who make the same look bad. It would also be nice if the press gave as much coverage to legitimate finds as they do to sensational claims …

Columnar Crime?

Somewhat strange (to me) item apparently circulating with not enough detail on the AP Wire … from PR Inside:

Police in northern Greece say they have seized six sections of ancient marble columns from a junkyard and arrested the owners for antiquity smuggling.
The sections of the 2,300-year-old columns are up to 13 feet (4 meters) tall.
The suspects, aged 21 and 28, told police they imported the antiquities legally from neighboring Bulgaria _ but the claim is being treated with suspicion after police examined their documents.

The two men were arrested Tuesday near the northern town of Veroia, 305 miles (490 kilometers) north of Athens, and are being held in police custody until they are formally charged.

New at the Getty

More news on the benefits the Getty is receiving from its agreement with Italy … the incipit of a brief item from Reuters:

California’s Getty Museum, one of the world’s richest art institutions, has received the first two artworks from Italy under a deal that settled a 2006 dispute over looted antiquities.

Getty officials said on Wednesday that two life-size ancient bronze statues discovered in the volcano-destroyed Italian city of Pompeii and owned by the National Archeological Museum in Naples will undergo restoration by Getty conservation experts.

The priceless statues, known as Ephebe as a lampbearer and Apollo as an archer, also will be on display for two years at the Getty Villa, a reconstruction of a Pompeii villa that is dedicated to the study of Roman and Greek antiquities, in the beach city of Malibu.

They are two of only about 30 surviving bronze statues from the period. The Getty will use the expertise it has gained in quake-prone California to strengthen the statues before their return to Italy, which also has a history of devastating earthquakes.

“As part of the collaboration agreement between Italy and the Getty, we wanted to contribute to the conservation of these artifacts,” said Karol Wight, senior curator of antiquities at the Getty. “Our staff are very good in this area.”

This Day in Ancient History

ante diem xviii kalendas maias

  • ludi Cereri continue (day 3) — games in honour of the grain goddess Ceres, instituted by/before 202 B.C.
  • 69 A.D. — first battle at Bedriacum; the forces of emperor wannabe Vitellius eventually would defeat the forces of emperor wannabe Otho
  • 73 A.D. — mass suicide at Masada (?)

If It’s Tuesday, Alexander’s Grave Must Be In …

FYROM … er … Macedonia … er … somewhere it has no business being. Or at least that’s the impression we’re being given from a couple of sources. First, MINA came out with this tantalizingly brief brief:

MiNa was not able to verify this information with the Macedonian Government nor with archeologists in Skopje, and are removing the text from “City Magazine” until further notice. Although there may be a chance ‘City Magazine’ is right, taking into account their elaborate piece, and there maybe a chance and a good reason for Macedonia to keep this secret, if we can’t verify the information, then it’s not news. To sum up, ‘City Magazine’ claims the Macedonian Government had found the grave of Alexander the Great in the Visje area (near Gevgelija) close to the border with Greece.

Then, the Bulgarian Focus came out with a typically-strangely translated piece (which expresses skepticism, interestingly enough):

Macedonian archaeologist Pasco Kuzman comments to FOCUS News Agency information released by online Macedonian edition and drawn from Serbian blog, which says that the tomb of Alexander the Great has been found at the Greek-Macedonian border with the following words:
“If it is true – it is a big lie. If it is a lie – it is a great truth. Multiplied, it is equal to zero.”
That was the answer of the question weather it is late April’s joke.

Macedonian Cyrillic edition published today, a text set out in Belgrade blog City Magazine, which contains a “stunt” for the discovery of the tomb of Alexander of Macedonia, which would have changed the history. Macedonian Edition offers readers the text on the matter stating that perhaps it’s a fictional story of a blogger.
“During reconstruction works on Visie border checkpoint between Macedonia and Greece / officially there is no such border checkpoint – FOCUS notices/, construction workers from” Build ” company uncovered one of the biggest mysteries of antiquity. The discovery has been found in digging of geodesic markers, and then with the permission of building inspectors it led to further construction activities. It was necessary to remove a large stone to dig further in order to make analysis on the ground. After the stone was removed, a granite slab appeared. Thinking that it was a buried wealth from the time of the Ottoman Empire, driver of the excavator began to dig together with his colleagues. Two hours later it became clear that it was a marble building, 30 meters long and four wide, the edition reads further. After descriptions of the finding the Director of the General Inspectorate of the Republic of Macedonia Goce Micevski from the National Museum /there is not such a museum – FOCUS notices/ and experts stated in a joint statement that in the Crypt was found well preserved skeleton with full outfit with gold-bronze armor and shit and mask, which was engraved with the name Alexander.
Journalists were promised to have a press conference in the afternoon, and meanwhile the text quoted the words of the workers involved in the excavations. /The text didn’t mention a date or even a day of a week – FOCUS notices/

FOCUS New Agency recalls:

Pasco Kuzman is Macedonian archaeologist, director of the Institute for the cultural heritage of Macedonia. He took part in restoration works of the historical complex Samuilova fortress in Ohrid.

Of course, there is no possibility that this has to do with the whole FYROM/Macedonia/Greece thing (he said, sarcastically … we need a smiley to denote sarcasm). The sad thing is that there will be piles of folk who buy into this … we’ll wait with bated breath to see if a major news source picks this up. We’re still waiting for pictures of that Bactrian inscription mentioned last week, by the way …