12 Historical Figures Whose Tombs Have Not Been Found

October 30, 2022 People's Tonight 677 views

Genevieve Carlton

Conquerors, kings, and queens are often buried with their riches – but what about all the tombs that haven’t been discovered? These missing tombs might contain treasures like the ones discovered in King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Mark Antony and Cleopatra were reportedly buried in “splendid and regal fashion” – but their tomb has never been found.

Sometimes tombs’ locations were kept secret deliberately. The Soviets wiped out all traces of the Third Reich leader’s burial site to make sure fascists never flocked there to celebrate the fallen Führer. Conquerors like Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun intentionally kept their burial sites secret, even slaying witnesses to that end. For centuries, efforts to find Genghis Khan’s tomb have failed.

In other cases, the locations of tombs have simply been lost over time. Alexander the Great’s tomb was once revered – until natural disasters hid its location. Similarly, Leonardo da Vinci’s burial site in France attracted tourists for centuries – until the French Revolution.


• Photo: Berthold Werner / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Alexander1Alexander the Great’s Burial Location Was Once A Highly Revered Site

Alexander the Great spent 12 years conquering Persia, the Near East, and Egypt for his Greek empire. He perished at just 32 years old in 323 BC. And while his tomb welcomed visitors 2,000 years ago, its location remains unknown today.

When Alexander passed, he was first buried in Memphis, Egypt, where he’d declared himself pharaoh. (This was against Alexander’s stated wishes to be buried at Siwah in western Egypt, but the body had been taken by one of his would-be successors, Ptolemy I, in a bid for legitimacy.) Later, his remains were moved to Alexandria, a city named after the conqueror, which became the greatest metropolis of the Hellenistic world. The tomb became an almost holy site, treated like a god’s temple by visitors. Julius Caesar visited the tomb in 48-47 BC to pay homage.

Several hundred years after Alexander’s passing, a tsunami swept through Alexandria. Then, the sea level began to rise. Alexandria’s inhabitants simply built on top of ancient ruins to raise the city’s level. As a result, Alexander’s tomb has been lost for centuries.

Today, more than 140 excavations have searched for Alexander’s tomb – but so far, no one has found the conqueror’s final resting place.

• Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

GenghisGenghis Khan Wanted His Burial Location Kept Secret

Genghis Khan conquered the largest land empire in history, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea. But when he perished, the Great Khan requested a secret burial.

In 1227, when Genghis Khan passed, an army of men carried his body back to the heart of Mongolia. They reportedly slayed every person they met along the way to conceal the conqueror’s tomb.

After burying Genghis Khan’s remains, they trampled the ground with 1,000 horses to wipe out any hint of the burial location.

In the 800 years since Genghis Khan perished, dozens have searched for his grave. One project even used satellite images to locate the tomb. But historical accounts make the already difficult search even harder. Stories of horses trampling the gravesite hint at a flat plain, but Genghis Khan vowed to be buried on a mountain.

On top of that, Mongolians see the search as taboo. Uelun, a Mongolian translator, says, “If they’d wanted us to find it, they would have left some sign.”

• Photo: Eugène Delacroix / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

AttilaAccording To Legend, The People Who Buried Attila The Hun Were Slain To Keep The Location Secret

Attila the Hun appeared at the head of an army in the fifth century and ransacked the Roman Empire. After winning victories across Europe, Attila expired during his own wedding feast.

The Hun army reportedly cut off their hair and sliced open their cheeks to mourn their fallen leader with their own blood. After a day-long mourning feast, the Huns buried Attila in three coffins: one of iron, one of silver, and one of gold. They diverted a river to bury Attila’s triple coffin in the riverbed, and then let the river flow over the burial site.

Not only that, Attila’s men reportedly offed everyone who participated in the burial to keep the site secret.

In 2014, construction workers in Budapest claimed they found Attila’s burial chamber. While digging the foundation for a bridge on the banks of the Danube, they stumbled on a chamber that contained human and horse skeletons along with jewelry, tactical equipment, and a massive sword. But the story was quickly disproved as a hoax.

• Photo: Mikhail Tikhanov / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

KamehamehaHawaii’s King Kamehameha Was Buried In A Secret Cave

A Hawaiian proverb says that no one will ever find the tomb of King Kamehameha. “The morning star alone knows where Kamehameha’s bones are guarded,” the proverb claims.

That’s because two of the king’s advisors hid Kamehameha’s body after Hawaii’s first king perished in 1819. They reportedly placed the king’s remains in a secret cave. Just two decades later, a historian lamented “the hiding place of the great Kamehameha’s bones is to this day a profound secret” – and the same holds true nearly two centuries on.

One of Kamehameha’s royal successors tried to find the king’s tomb in the late 19th century. King David Kalakaua managed to identify a secret burial cave where he found two skeletons. The king transported them both to the Royal Mausoleum – but no one knows if the bones actually belong to Kamehameha.

• Photo: Philip Pikart / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

NefertitiNefertiti May Be Buried Near King Tut

The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, filled with riches, encouraged generations of archaeologists and treasure hunters to look for other Egyptian burial sites.

But in 2020, archaeologists realized that the location of a famous Egyptian’s tomb might be inside King Tut’s tomb. When surveying the tomb using radars, scholars identified potential hidden chambers – which might hold the tomb of Egypt’s Queen Nefertiti.

Nefertiti and King Tut were close – her daughter married Tutankhamun, making her his mother-in-law. Since her demise in the 14th century BC, Nefertiti’s tomb has never been found. But it might hold the secret to a historical mystery. Did Nefertiti rule Egypt as a pharaoh? Her tomb, long thought to be located in the Valley of the Kings, might provide a solution.

• Photo: Lawrence Alma-Tadema / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

AnthonyExperts Believed They Found Cleopatra And Mark Antony’s Tomb In 2019

It was a doomed love story from the start. Mark Antony escaped his conflicts in Rome to fall in love with the Egyptian ruler Cleopatra. But the couple’s common enemy, Octavian, soon tracked them down.

In 30 BC, Octavian’s army arrived in Egypt, forcing Antony and Cleopatra to take their own lives. According to a Roman historian, Octavian “allowed them both the honour of burial, and in the same tomb, giving orders that the mausoleum which they had begun should be finished.” Another historian, Plutarch, added that the future Emperor Augustus said Cleopatra’s “body should be buried with that of Antony in splendid and regal fashion.”

These clues hint at a lavish burial site, which still remains lost today.

• Photo: John Opie / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

BoudiccaQueen Boudicca’s Final Resting Place May Never Be Found

Boudicca led an army against the Romans in the early decades of their British rule. She argued that the Romans would treat the island’s population like slaves, snatching the throne she planned to pass down to her daughters.

The Celtic queen terrified the Romans, one of whom wrote, “In stature she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh.”

After burning London in 60 AD, Boudicca retreated, fleeing to the north where she perished. The Romans claimed Boudicca was buried in a tomb filled with riches, but her burial site has never been found.

One rumor claims Boudicca’s tomb lies under a platform at King’s Cross, a railway station in London. Archaeologist Richard Hingley says, “It is unlikely that Boudicca would have had a burial monument. Most Iron Age people in this region were disposed of in ways that do not show up in the archaeological record.”

• Photo: Samuel Woodforde / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

BonesBones Were Discovered At The Place Historians Believe Alfred the Great Was Buried

King Alfred the Great united England and fought off Danish incursions. He remains England’s only king to be called “the Great.”

Alfred passed in the ninth century, and since then, his remains have been moved several times. First buried in Winchester in 899, the king’s body was moved to another church in 904, where he was buried next to his family. Then, in 1100, the king’s grave was moved again – to Hyde Abbey. But when Henry VIII broke with Rome, the abbey was wiped out and the tomb ransacked. Some claim Alfred’s tomb was moved to a new location in St. Bartholomew’s parish church.

For centuries, Alfred’s tomb has been lost. Generations have hunted for the king’s tomb, and Winchester’s city council even commissioned an excavation. But they only found one human bone at a likely site – and it belonged to a woman.

Another theory claims that 19th century construction work on the site of Hyde Abbey likely scattered the king’s bones, meaning they will never be recovered.

• Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H1216-0500-002 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

HitlerAdolf Hitler’s Final Burial Site Might Expire With The KGB

The Third Reich leader offed himself in an underground bunker in Berlin in 1945. His loyal followers then burned his body. But when the Soviets stormed Berlin on May 5, 1945, they found the leader’s remains and that of his wife, Eva Braun. The next month, the Soviets hid the bodies in a German forest. The following year, they dug up the bodies and transported them to an army garrison.

From there, the KGB took over. In 1970, before abandoning the army garrison, the Soviets dug up the Führer’s body. Then, according to a secret KGB document, “The remains were burnt on a bonfire outside the town of Shoenebeck, 11 kilometers away from Magdeburg, then ground into ashes, collected and thrown into the Biederitz River.”

The KGB intentionally hid all evidence of the leader’s burial. They wanted to make sure his tomb would never become a fascist meeting site.

• Photo: Auguste Millière / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

ThomasThomas Paine’s One-Time Rival Snatched His Body To Give It A Proper Burial

In 1976, a mysterious obelisk was found in a Hudson River village in upstate New York. The tombstone read “in memory of Thomas Paine.” But did the stone mark the final resting place of the author of Common Sense?

When Paine passed in 1809, he had few friends on either side of the Atlantic. Ten years later, William Cobbett dug up Paine’s body in America. A former enemy of the pamphleteer turned admirer, Cobbett vowed to return Paine to England in 1819. But the English laughed at Cobbett and refused to bury Paine.

Lord Byron memorialized the body snatching in a poem:

In digging up your bones, Tom Paine,

Will Cobbett has done well;

You visit him on earth again;

He’ll visit you in hell

When Cobbett perished in 1835, he still had Paine’s bones – which were passed around by several people before they vanished. It’s possible that Paine’s bones will someday be recovered, but they weren’t under the obelisk in the Hudson Valley.

• Photo: Leonardo da Vinci / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

LeonardoLeonardo da Vinci’s Tomb Had To Be Moved Following The French Revolution

After painting the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci moved to France to work for King Francis I. After da Vinci perished, the French buried him at a chapel in the Loire Valley.

But during the French Revolution, a group of revolutionaries wiped out the chapel. Later, fans of the Renaissance artist removed his remains and transported them to a smaller chapel. But did they transplant the right remains?

Today, scientists want to DNA test the remains to determine if they actually belong to da Vinci. But the artist never had any children, creating a significant problem for the scientists. In 2016, Alessandro Vezzosi and Agnese Sabato identified the descendants of da Vinci’s half-brother. They plan to compare the modern DNA with a lock of hair that might have come from da Vinci.

“This relic is what we needed to make our historical research even more solid from a scientific point of view,” Sabato announced. “We are planning to carry out DNA analysis on the relic and compare it to Leonardo’s living descendants as well as to bones found in Da Vinci burials that we have identified over the past years.”

• Photo: Barbara Krafft / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

MozartMozart’s Unmarked Grave May Be Lost Forever

Mozart passed in Vienna at just 35 years old – and he was buried in a pauper’s grave. Not only that, at least four or five other bodies shared the single grave with the composer.

For decades after the composer’s passing in 1791, few even knew the location of his grave within St. Mark’s Cemetery in Vienna.

But at some point, a gravedigger who knew the location took Mozart’s skull – at least according to several stories. By 1902, the skull sat in Salzburg’s Mozarteum. In 2006, scientists tested the skull to determine if it belonged to the composer. But the results, like those from earlier tests, remain inconclusive. In all likelihood, the exact location of Mozart’s remains will never be identified.