10 Unknown - or Contested- Resting Places of Historical Greats
10 Unknown – or Contested- Resting Places of Historical Greats

10 Unknown – or Contested- Resting Places of Historical Greats

D.G. Hewitt - May 28, 2018

10 Unknown – or Contested- Resting Places of Historical Greats
Sir Francis Drake was given a sea burial, though where remains a mystery. Wikipedia.

Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake was Queen Elizabeth I’s go-to man for naval warfare and exploration. This was a man who circumnavigated the globe (the second person to do so, in fact) and who claimed the territory that is now modern-day California for England. Drake also led the English navy against the Spanish armada. Plus, he’s credited with bringing not only tobacco but also potatoes to the British Isles. Quite a legacy. But, unlike many of his contemporaries, he was never granted a proper burial in Westminster Abbey. Instead, he body lies at the bottom of the ocean. A watery grave yet to be located.

Upon leaving the navy a hero, Drake went into business as a pirate. He also made a small fortune in the slave trade, taking captives from Africa to work in the English colonies of North America. Despite surviving countless battles, and despite having had a huge price on his head, Drake ended up dying of dysentery. He passed away, aged 56, while his ship was moored off the coast of Panama. As per his death bed request, he was dressed in his full uniform. He was then placed in a lead-lined coffin and this was thrown overboard.

Over the years, numerous attempts have been made to find Drake’s body. Most research points to him being buried at sea close to the wrecks of two British ships, the Delight and the Elizabeth. Both of these vessels sank soon after the legendary admiral’s death. Plus, it’s historical record that Drake died while moored off the coast of Portobelo, right next to the Panamanian shoreline. But despite the clues, no one has got lucky so far. For now, the Great Briton’s watery grave remains a mystery, and this doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.

10 Unknown – or Contested- Resting Places of Historical Greats
Julius Cesar visited Alexander the Great’s resting place, but where he is now is a mystery. Wikipedia.

Alexander the Great

Almost all of the great men and women of ancient times now lie in sites unknown. Nobody will ever know where Roman emperors or Greek philosophers were buried, for example. So, in this regard, it’s not so surprising that the final resting place of Alexander the Great has been lost to history. But what does make it peculiar is that the great leader was reportedly buried in a golden sarcophagus and placed in a tomb so elaborate that even the ancients were desperate to find its location.

Though he died young, at the age of just 32, Alexander had achieved a huge amount in just three decades. He commanded one of the largest empires the world had ever seen or has even seen since. His domain stretched from the Ionian Sea in Greece all the way to the Himalayas. This was no fluke: by all accounts, he was a skilled tactician and possibly even the greatest general of ancient times. He was never defeated in battle. Instead, he died in his own palace, slowly and in pain.

Some accounts suggest that he drank bad wine. Or maybe unclean water. Modern theories suggest he might have died of malaria, typhoid or even meningitis. Whatever the cause, he died in June of 323BC. His body was reverentially placed in a golden sarcophagus. This was then filled with honey and then put in a gold casket. It was then loaded up on wheels for the journey back to his native Macedon.

The thing is, it never got there. Along the way, Ptolemy II hijacked the funeral procession and took the sarcophagus to Memphis, Egypt. One of his successors then took it to the city of Alexandria, where Pompey, Julius Cesar, Augustus all visited to admire it. In the year 200, Emperor Septimius Severus closed off the tomb. And then? Who knows. Nobody has been able to pinpoint where the luxurious tomb ended up. Indeed, the whereabouts of Alexander the Great remains one of the true great mysteries of archaeology and the source of many theories. Could he still be lying in Egypt? Or how about in Venice, as some claim? The mystery remains huge, just like Alexander’s empire.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Sir Francis Drake’s body ‘close to being found off Panama'”. BBC, October 2011.

“Thomas Paine’s Remains Are Still a Bone of Contention”. Los Angeles Times, April 2001.

“Shakespeare’s skull: New chapter in hunt for missing head”. BBC News, March 2016.

“The mystery of Mozart’s burial uncovered”. Limelight Magazine, July 2013.

“Remains of Federico Garcia Lorca ‘hidden at the bottom of a well”. Daily Telegraph, April 2013.

“Leonardo da Vinci paintings analyzed for DNA to solve grave mystery”. Daily Telegraph, May 2016.

“7 Lost Burial Sites”. Evan Andrews, History.com, July 2015.