A tunnel found under an Egyptian temple may lead to Cleopatra’s tomb, an archaeologist says.
“The excavation revealed a huge religious center with three sanctuaries, a sacred lake, more than 1,500 objects, busts, statues, gold pieces, a huge collection of coins depicting Alexander the Great, Queen Cleopatra and the Ptolemies,” Martinez told CNN.
Kathleen Martinez has discovered a tunnel that may lead to a lost tomb. Credit: Kathleen Martinez-Nazar/Taposiris Walk Project
“The most interesting discovery is the complex of tunnels leading to the Mediterranean Sea and sunken structures,” he added. Exploring these underwater structures will be the next phase of his search for the lost tomb of an Egyptian queen, a journey that began in 2005.
“My determination is not to be confused with obsession. I admire Cleopatra as a historical figure. He became a victim of Roman propaganda aimed at distorting his image,” Martinez said.
“She was an educated woman, probably the first to be formally educated at the Alexandria Museum, the cultural center of her time,” according to Martinez, who said she admired Cleopatra as a student, linguist, mother and philosopher.
When her husband, the Roman general Mark Antony, died in her arms in B.C. 30, Cleopatra killed herself shortly after by letting a horse bite her, according to popular belief. The moment has been immortalized in art and literature, but more than two millennia later, little is known about the whereabouts of their remains.
Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra and Richard Burton as Mark Antony. Credit: Twentieth Century Fox
A series of clues led Martinez to believe that Cleopatra’s tomb might be located in the Temple of Osiris at the ruined city of Taposiris Magna on Egypt’s northern coast where the Nile River meets the Mediterranean Sea.
The main one was the name itself. According to Martinez. Cleopatra in her time was considered the “human incarnation of the goddess Isis”, as Antony was considered the incarnation of the god Orysis, the husband of Isis.
Martinez believes that Cleopatra may have decided to bury her husband in the temple to reflect this myth. Of all the 20 temples around Alexandria that he studied, Martinez says, “no other site, structure or temple combines as many conditions as the Temple of Taposiris Magna.”
So far, more than 1,500 ancient objects have been found during excavations. Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism
In 2004, Martinez took his theory to Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who was then Egypt’s minister of antiquities. His project was approved a year later.
And after years of searching, Martinez feels he’s getting close.
Excavations so far have shown that “the temple was dedicated to Isis,” which Martinez says is another sign that the lost tomb is nearby, as well as tunnels under the sea.
The search for the lost tomb took Martinez under the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: Kathleen Martinez-Nazar/Taposiris Walk Project
Now, according to Martinez, he is at the “beginning of a new journey”: underwater excavation.
Egypt’s coastline has been hit by earthquakes over the centuries, causing parts of Tamposiris Magna to collapse and sink beneath the waves, according to a statement from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
That’s where Martinez and his team go next. Although “it’s too early to know where these tunnels lead,” he’s hopeful.
If the tunnels lead to Cleopatra, “it will be the most important discovery of the century,” he said.
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