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A tunnel discovered under an Egyptian temple could lead to Cleopatra’s tomb, an archaeologist says

A tunnel discovered under an Egyptian temple could lead to Cleopatra's tomb, an archaeologist says
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Written by Christian Edwards, CNN

Kathleen Martinez, an archaeologist at the University of Santo Domingo, has been searching for the lost tomb of Cleopatra for almost 20 years. Now she believes she has made a major breakthrough.
Martinez and her team recently uncovered a 1,305-meter (4,281-foot) tunnel located 13 meters (43 feet) underground, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced – an architectural design expert dubbed a “marvel of engineering.”

“The excavation revealed a vast religious center with three sanctuaries, a sacred lake, more than 1,500 objects, busts, statues, pieces of gold and a vast collection of coins depicting Alexander the Great, Queen Cleopatra and the Ptolemies,” 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. Recognition: Kathleen Martinez-Nazar/Taposiris Magna Project

“The most interesting discovery is the complex of tunnels leading to the Mediterranean Sea and sunken structures,” she added. Exploring these underwater structures will be the next stage in her quest for the Egyptian Queen’s lost tomb – a journey that began in 2005.

“My persistence is not to be confused with obsession. I admire Cleopatra as a historical figure. She fell victim to Roman propaganda aimed at distorting her image,” Martinez said.

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

When her husband, the Roman general Mark Antony, 30 BC. Cleopatra died in her arms shortly thereafter, according to popular belief, by letting an adder bite her. The moment has been immortalized in art and literature – but more than two millennia later little is known about where her remains lie.

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra and Richard Burton as Mark Antony.

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra and Richard Burton as Mark Antony. Recognition: Fox of the twentieth century

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

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

Martinez believes Cleopatra may have chosen to bury her husband in the temple to reflect this myth. Of all 20 temples around Alexandria she examined, Martinez said, “no other site, structure, or temple combines as many conditions as the Temple of Taposiris Magna.”

Excavations to date have uncovered more than 1,500 ancient objects.

Excavations to date have uncovered more than 1,500 ancient objects. Recognition: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism

In 2004, Martinez took her theory to Zahi Hawass, an Egyptian archaeologist who was then Egypt’s minister of antiquities affairs. Their project was approved a year later.

And after years of searching, Martinez feels she’s getting closer.

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 the tunnels beneath the sea.

The search for the missing grave has led Martinez under the Mediterranean Sea.

The search for the missing grave has led Martinez under the Mediterranean Sea. Recognition: Kathleen Martinez-Nazar/Taposiris Magna Project

Now, Martinez said, she is at “the beginning of a new journey” — underwater excavation.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, earthquakes have ravaged the Egyptian coast over the centuries, causing parts of Tamposiris Magna to collapse and sink beneath the waves.

This is where Martinez and her team look next. Though it’s “too early to know where these tunnels are going,” she’s confident.

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

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