Tunnel discovered under Egyptian temple may lead to Cleopatra’s tomb, archaeologist says

written by Christian Edwards, CNN

Kathleen Martinez, an archaeologist at the University of Santo Domingo, has been searching for Cleopatra’s lost tomb for almost 20 years. Now he thinks he’s made a big breakthrough.
Martinez and his team discovered a 1,305-meter (4,281-foot) tunnel, located 13 meters (43 feet) underground, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced recently, which architectural design experts called a “miracle of engineering”.

“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 Ptolemy,” Martinez told CNN.

Kathleen Martinez discovered a tunnel that could lead to the lost tomb.

Kathleen Martinez discovered a tunnel that could lead to the lost tomb. Credit: Project Kathleen Martinez-Nazar/Taposiris Magna

“The most interesting discovery is the complex of tunnels leading to the Mediterranean Sea and sunken structures,” he added. The exploration of these underwater structures will be the next stage in their search for the lost tomb of the Egyptian queen, a journey that began in 2005.

“My perseverance cannot be confused with obsession. I admire Cleopatra as a historical figure. She was a victim of the propaganda of the Romans, with the aim of distorting her image,” said Martinez.

“She was a cultured woman, probably the first to study formally at the Alexandria Museum, the center of culture in her time,” according to Martinez, who said she admired Cleopatra as a student, linguist, mother and philosopher. .

When her husband, the Roman general Marc Antony, died in her arms in 30 BC, Cleopatra committed suicide shortly after by allowing an asp to 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 its remains.

Elizabeth Taylor appears as Cleopatra and Richard Burton as Mark Antony in the 1963 film "Cleopatra"

Elizabeth Taylor appears as Cleopatra and Richard Burton as Mark Antony in the 1963 film “Cleopatra.” Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

A series of clues led Martinez to believe that Cleopatra’s tomb might be located in the Temple of Osiris in the ruined city of Taposiris Magna on Egypt’s northern coast, where the Nile River meets the Mediterranean.

Chief among them was the name itself. According to Martinez, Cleopatra was considered in her time as “the human incarnation of the goddess Isis”, as Antony was considered that of the god Orisis, the husband of Isis.

Martínez believes that Cleopatra may have chosen to bury her husband in the temple to reflect this myth. Of the 20 Alexandrian temples he has studied, Martinez said, “no other site, structure or temple combines as many conditions as the Taposiris Magna temple.”

Excavations so far have uncovered more than 1,500 ancient objects.

Excavations so far have uncovered more than 1,500 ancient objects. Credit: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism

In 2004, Martínez took his theory to Zahi Hawass, an Egyptian archaeologist 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 closer.

Excavations so far have revealed that “the temple was dedicated to Isis” — which Martinez believes is another sign that the lost tomb is nearby — as well as tunnels under the sea.

The search for the lost tomb has taken Martínez under the Mediterranean Sea.

The search for the lost tomb has taken Martínez under the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: Project Kathleen Martinez-Nazar/Taposiris Magna

Now, Martinez said, he’s at the “beginning of a new journey” — underwater excavations.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Egyptian coast has been affected by earthquakes over the centuries, causing parts of the Taposiris Magna to cave in and sink under the waves.

That’s where Martinez and his team are looking. Although it’s “too early to know where these tunnels lead,” she’s hopeful.

If the tunnels lead to Cleopatra, “it will be the most important discovery of the century,” he said.

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