Historians had racked their brains over Greek inscriptions found at the ancient Sumerian temple of Girsu, which sits in the present-day town of Tello.
At 4,000 years old, it is ancient and came far before the time of the Ancient Greeks, erected around the same time that Stonehenge was coming together in Britain.
Archaeologists from the British Museum have now decoded some of the inscriptions and believe a Greek temple to Alexander the Great was founded on the site.
In a twist of fate, they think that the temple may even have been erected by Alexander himself, transforming the way we look at both the Ancient Greek empire and the man himself.
A silver coin found near the temple, minted around 330 BCE by Alexander’s troops, hints that the conqueror king may have visited the temple after defeating the Persians in modern-day Iraq.
If true, it would make the temples on the site one of Alexander’s last acts before he died at the age of 32.
The discovery also suggests that Alexander’s contemporaries knew about the previous 4,000-year-old site, which had been abandoned for millennia.
This would also indicate that ancient societies had accurate historical knowledge and cultural memory, which lends itself to exploring how they may have stored those memories.
Dr Sebastien Rey, an archaeologist at the British Museum, told The Telegraph: “It is truly mind-blowing. Our discoveries place the later temple in Alexander’s lifetime.
“We found offerings, the kinds of offerings that would be given after a battle, figures of soldiers and cavalrymen. There is a chance, we will never know for certain, that he might have come here, when he returned to Babylon, just before he died.”
The site was likely inhabited from 5000 BC and was by the 3rd millennium BC a city saved to the Sumerians, the world’s first established civilisation.
It was abandoned in 1750 BC, more than 1,000 years before Alexander was born, and was only revealed to the world more than 1,000 years later when French excavations at the site in the 19th century unveiled structures and relics.
Later excavations would unearth Greek material mixed with older Sumerian statues, creating a timeline which made little sense.
They knew a Greek structure must have been built on the site but there were few clues, only a tablet written in Greek and Aramaic which read: “Giver of the two brothers”.
Work by the British Museum may finally have resolved this conundrum after finding the coin which places the site right at the time Alexander lived.
The team also found an altar and figurines which would have typically been left at Greek temples as offerings, like the coin, suggesting it was a place of worship.
And, terracotta cavalrymen were recovered similar to those in the Companion Cavalry which made up Alexander’s bodyguard, hinting that whoever left the offerings was close to, if not the man himself.
The inscription “giver of the two brothers” could refer to Alexander’s supposed father Zeus, who had given the world both the commander and his brother Hercules and his Sumerian counterpart Ningirsu, according to Dr Rey.
He added that the fact that people knew that Tello, which had been abandoned more than 1,000 years before, was the home of the god suggests “deep cultural memory”.
There is a chance that the younger Greek temple placed on top of the older Sumerian site was created when Alexander passed through the region on his way back from India, just before he died in 323 BC.
“This site honours Zeus and two divine sons. The sons are Heracles and Alexander. That is what these discoveries suggest,” Dr Rey said.