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Arsinoe IV of Egypt, sister of Cleopatra identiried? Osseous and molecular challenges

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Abstract

Arsinoe IV of Egypt, the younger sister of Cleopatra, was murdered between the ages of 16 and 18 on the order of Marc Antony in 41 BC while living in political asylum at the Artemision in Ephesus (Turkey). Archaeological findings and architectural features point to the skeletal remains found in the so-called Oktogon - Heroon in the center of ancient Ephesus - to being those of Arsinoe IV Respective remains were dated and investigated by forensic osteology, radiology and ancient DNA analysis to assess identification: Radiocarbon dating (VERA-4104) isolated the period between 210 and 20 BC (94 % prob.). Morphological features suggest a female with an estimated body height of 154 cm (+/- 3 cm) and with limbs in good proportion to one another. Epiphyseal closure and histological age estimation (femoral cross sections) revealed a consistent age at death between 15 and 17 years. The whole skeleton appeared to belong to a slim and fragile individual (soft tissue reconstruction was applied and compared to ancient sources). Stress markers, like Harris' lines were absent and no sings for heavy workload or pre- or perimortal traumas were found. Ancient DNA analysis was carried out for several bone samples. No nuclear DNA was detected, most likely due to diagenetic factors and storage conditions. Endeavors to find mitochondrial DNA are currently in progress. Investigations could neither verify nor disprove the theory on the origin of the remains. However, after successful mtDNA typing a maternal relative reference sample would be required for final identification.
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The hinterland of the metropolis of Ephesos belonged to the most important quarrying region for white marbles in the ancient world. Here, two main groups can be differentiated, which have been divided into Ephesos I and II based on petrographic-geochemical criteria. In addition to the two large groups of Ephesian marble, Ephesos I and II, there are smaller local marble supplies which differ petrographically and geochemically from these. One of these stone quarries, which demonstrably was already exploited in antiquity, is that of Ab-u Hayat, which will be analysed in detail in what follows.
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