Archaeologists Believe They May Have Finally Found the Lost Tomb of Cleopatra
"Almost unprecedented" discovery.
Finding the lost tomb of Cleopatra, legendary queen of ancient Egypt, is a kind of holy grail for archeologists. Experts have said that such a discovery would rewrite history and be a once-in-a-century event. One archeologist said she may have achieved just that. Kathleen Martinez, an archaeologist at the University of Santo Domingo, has uncovered a tunnel in Northern Egypt that she believes may lead to Cleopatra's final resting place.
The 4,281-foot-long channel, buried 43 feet underground, is the result of nearly two decades of searching. "The excavation revealed a huge religious center with three sanctuaries, a sacred lake, more than 1,500 objects, busts, statues, golden pieces, a huge collection of coins portraying Alexander the Great, Queen Cleopatra and the Ptolemies," Martinez told CNN. Read on to find out more.
Martinez told CNN that she admires Cleopatra as a student, linguist, mother, and philosopher, and she considers the Egyptian queen to be somewhat misunderstood. "My perseverance cannot be confused with obsession. I admire Cleopatra as a historical character. She was a victim of propaganda by the Romans, aiming to distort her image," said Martinez. She added: "She was an educated woman, probably the first one who studied formally at the Museum in Alexandria, the center of culture in her time."
Cleopatra reigned as queen of ancient Egypt from about 51 BC to 30 BC. Her husband, the Roman general Mark Antony, committed suicide after losing a crucial military battle. Cleopatra followed suit. Centuries of lore suggested that she did so by allowing a snake to bite her, but historians now say she poisoned herself with a less dramatic method.
The iconic deaths led to numerous books and films, and a mystery. Two millennia after Cleopatra died, it's unclear where the remains of the queen and Mark Antony are buried.
Martinez first began searching for Cleopatra's lost tomb in 2005. Several clues led her to believe that Cleopatra's tomb might be located in the Temple of Osiris in Taposiris Magna, a region of ancient ruins on Egypt's northern coast, near the Mediterranean Sea. The first clue: The name.
In her day, Cleopatra was considered to be the human incarnation of the goddess Isis, and her husband, Mark Antony, the god Orisis, Isis' husband. Cleopatra may have buried her husband in the temple to fulfill the myth, Martinez told CNN. "No other place, structure or temple combines so many conditions as the temple of Taposiris Magna," she said. Excavations have revealed that the temple was indeed dedicated to Isis, along with tunnels that lie under the sea.
"If the mausoleum of Cleopatra has not already vanished beneath the waves of the Mediterranean along with most of the Hellenistic city of Alexandria, and is one day found, it would be an almost unprecedented archaeological discovery," said Jane Draycott, a lecturer in classics at the University of Glasgow, on The Conversation this week. An intact tomb would enable a wealth of scientific research.
"While the tombs of many famous historical rulers are still standing—the mausoleum of Augustus, Antony and Cleopatra's mortal enemy, in Rome, is one example—their contents have often been looted and lost centuries ago," said Draycott. "The amount of new information Egyptologists, classicists, ancient historians, and archaeologists could glean from its contents would be immense."
The next step for Martinez and her team is underwater excavations. While Martinez says it's "too early to know where these tunnels lead," she's optimistic. If they indeed find Cleopatra, "it will be the most important discovery of the century," she told CNN.
"Suppose the mausoleum is not lost under the Mediterranean Sea. In that case, like most Hellenistic city Alexandria, it might be the most prominent archaeological finding in decades," the Economic Times concurred this week. If the tomb is found, "the history of the famous Cleopatra would change forever."