Ptolomy's War Elephants

Through DNA analysis, Illinois researchers have revealed new evidence surrounding the mystery of Ptolomy's war elephants. Historical records claim the elephants played a crucial role in the war between Ptolomy IV of Egypt and Antiochus III of Seleucid. In 217 B.C Ptolomy faced off against Antiochus with 73 African war elephants to his opponent's 102 Asian elephants. The account claims Ptolomy lost the battle due to the significantly smaller size of his elephants. This stipulation has long baffled historians and biologists because African elephants are in fact larger than Asian elephants. For years experts have offered explanations for Ptolomy's curiously petite ranks. Some claimed he fought with an extinct species still unavailable to us in the fossil record. In 1948, Sir William Gowers suggested that he used tree elephants, a species much smaller than African elephants and his word has remained cannon to the present.

The DNA study debunked this theory, however, by demonstration that Ptolomy's elephants had no genetic linkage to modern day tree elephants. This has led researchers to believe they were related instead to Savanna African elephants. Although this does not account for their size, it's a step forward to solving the historic mystery. To read the full story on the study go to sciencedaily and to see more of the war elephants of the ancient world go to science source. 

12th century Cambodian relief carving. 0D4591.

12th century Cambodian relief carving. 0D4591.

War Elephant. BV2460.