Weird History

12 Historical Figures Whose Tombs Have Not Been Found 

Genevieve Carlton
July 31, 2020 55.2k views 12 items

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.

Alexander the Great is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 12 Historical Figures Whose Tombs Have Not Been Found
Photo:  Berthold Werner/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

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.

Genghis Khan is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 12 Historical Figures Whose Tombs Have Not Been Found
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

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.”

Attila the Hun is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 12 Historical Figures Whose Tombs Have Not Been Found
Photo: Eugène Delacroix/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

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.

Kamehameha I is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 12 Historical Figures Whose Tombs Have Not Been Found
Photo: Mikhail Tikhanov/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

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.