Houston Chronicle Feb. 1, 1995. Archaeologists believe they've found Alexander's tomb by Robert Cooke

Ancient messages on crumbling stone tablets found near a desert tomb tell archaeologists they may finally have found the burial place of Alexander the Great, Egyptian authorities announced Tuesday.

If the find is confirmed the discovery solves one of the most enduring riddles of ancient history: where is the burial site of the famed Greek general who, before he was 32, carved out an empire that included most of the Middle East and parts of Asia.

Abdel-Halim Noureddin, chairman of the official Egyptian Antiquities Organization, said he was convinced by a weekend visit to Siwa that the Greek team had succeeded.

"I do feel that this is the tomb of Alexander,"

Noureddin told The Associated Press Tuesday.

Three stone tablets bearing Greek writing were found near the ancient Siwa Oasis, about 50 miles from Egypt's border with Libya. One of the tablets apparently was inscribed by one of Alexander's generals, Ptolemy I, telling how he brought his king revered as the son of the god Amun -- to Siwa, the site of the tomb: "Alexander, Amun-ra," it reads. ""For the sake of the honorable Alexander, I present these sacrifices according to the orders of the god, (and) carried the corpse here -- and it was so light, as much as a small shield -- when I was commander in Egypt. "

The tomb's entrance, apparently damaged in an earthquake, is flanked by two stone lions. A 21 -foot-long corridor leads into antechambers, and finally to a 1 2-foot-square burial vault.

A second tablet says the shrine was built for Alexander as ""the first and the unique among all, he who drunk the poison. " That statement, if accurate, may shed light on Alexander's death, said by one source to have come after a long banquet and drinking bout. Other accounts blame a disease, with high fever, for the king's death. The king was 33 years old when he died in June 323 B.C., in Babylon. The third tablet mentions 30,000 soldiers stationed at Siwa to guard the tomb.

But Fawzi Fakhrani, professor of Greco-Roman history at Alexandria University, said discovery of the tomb does not prove Alexander was actually buried there. ""When he died in Babylon he was mummified until they decided where he should be buried. "

A tomb may have been built at Siwa, Fakhrani said, but ""Ptolemy feared if he buried Alexander at Siwa, some general might have tried to lay hold of the body. So therefore he buried him in (the ancient capital) Memphis" and then the remains were later moved to Alexandria.

The tomb near Siwa was found recently by a Greek team led by archaeologist Liana Souvaltzi. The site is about 50 miles from the Libyan border, where the team has been exploring for the past four years. The buried structure is huge, 130 feet long by 65 feet wide, built of large stones.

If the tomb is indeed Alexander's, said Richard Fazzini, ""it would be an exciting find, absolutely. If it is the tomb of Alexander the Great, I'd be very interested in seeing what it looks like and what is in it. " Fazzini, chairman of the department of Egyptian Classical and Ancient Middle Eastern Art at the Brooklyn Museum, added that if the tomb was as large as reported, "no matter whose tomb it is, it's going to be an interesting find. It must be somebody important."

Similar articles about the discovery were also reported Feb. 1

In The New York Times, L.A. Times, and The Ottawa Citizen.