With his flowing white locks and extravagant manner, Macedonian archaeologist Pasko Kuzman has become something of a celebrity in his native country.
Aside from some notable finds in his native Ohrid region, as head of the Cultural Heritage Protection Office he has had a major role in the Macedonian government's controversial, if not provocative, use of ancient historical figures to adorn the capital, Skopje. He's also seen as the force behind the latest beautification effort: the multimillion-dollar project called Skopje 2014.
Most contentious is the massive bronze statue of Alexander the Great, erected in 2011. At the time, Greece objected strongly to the statue
, branding it a "usurpation of Greek history."
This is just one of a series of disputes that began with the very name of the country itself, Republic of Macedonia, which Greece fears represents a claim on its northern province of Macedonia. Greece has blocked Macedonia's joining the European Union and NATO over the name issue.
But Kuzman, for one, won't be deterred. As he told Balkan Insight
recently, despite expectations that he will soon retire as the head of the cultural protection office, he won't give up searching for Alexander's tomb, which he believes could be in the country.
"There are two theories: according to the first his tomb is in Egypt, but a mosque was built above the tomb so no one dared dig under the mosque and reveal the tomb.
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"We opt for the second theory, that there is a grave in Egypt but that Alexander is not there because on the request of his mother, Olympia, the sarcophagi were replaced and one coffin was sent to Egypt, while the other traveled to Macedonia, where Alexander is buried.
"He was buried with all the honors, but in a secret location in southeast Macedonia at a cemetery which still exists," Kuzman continues, comparing the mystery of his grave with the mystery of the lost kingdom of Atlantis.
"I'm always behind him, closely following his footsteps! My passion since my student days is to find his grave. I am convinced that day will come," he insists.
-- Dan Wisniewski