Egypt to search 3 sites for Cleopatra's tomb

Apr 15, 2009 By REBECCA SANTANA , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Archaeologists will begin excavating sites in Egypt next week in an attempt to solve a mystery that has stymied historians for hundreds of years: Where is the final resting place of doomed lovers Cleopatra and Mark Antony?

Archaeologists looking for the tombs of the celebrated queen of and the Roman general, who committed suicide in 31 B.C., will begin excavating three sites at a temple where tombs may be located, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said in a statement Wednesday.

Cleopatra and Mark Antony, whose relationship was later immortalized by William Shakespeare and then in a movie with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, could have been buried in a deep shaft in a temple near the Mediterranean Sea, the council said.

Archaeologists last year unearthed the alabaster head of a Cleopatra statue, 22 coins bearing Cleopatra's image and a mask believed to belong to Mark Antony at the temple.

The three sites were identified last month during a radar survey of the temple of Taposiris Magna, the council's statement said. The temple is located near the northern coastal city of Alexandria and was built during the reign of King Ptolemy II (282-246 B.C.)

Teams from Egypt and the Dominican Republic have been excavating the temple for the last three years. They found a number of deep shafts inside the temple, three of which were possibly used for burials. The lovers could be buried in a similar shaft, the statement said.

The lovers committed suicide after being defeated in the battle of Actium. Mark Antony is said to have killed himself with his sword, while Cleopatra is believed to have clutched a poisonous asp to her chest.

However, John Baines, an Egyptologist with Oxford University in England questioned why Augustus, who defeated Antony, would have chosen such a distinguished burial place.

"I don't really see why there should be a particular connection between that site and Antony and Cleopatra," Baines said.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's top archaeologist, said the Cleopatra statue and coins - which show an attractive face - debunk a recent theory that the queen was "quite ugly."

"The finds from Taposiris reflect a charm ... and indicate that Cleopatra was in no way unattractive," said Hawass, according to the statement.

Academics at Britain's University of Newcastle concluded in 2007 that the queen was not especially attractive. Their conclusion was based on Cleopatra's depiction on a Roman coin that shows her as a sharp-nosed, thin-lipped woman with a protruding chin.

Excavators at the site near Alexandria have already discovered a large previously unknown cemetery outside the temple enclosure. They have also discovered 27 tombs - including a total of 10 mummies.

According to the statement, the style of the tombs indicates they were built during the Greco-Roman period. The presence of the cemetery also indicates that an important person - possibly royalty - could be buried inside the .

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Egypt unveils pharaonic 'brain drain' bed

Mar 19, 2009

Egyptian antiquities authorities on Thursday revealed an ancient pharaonic embalming bed unearthed from a mysterious tomb near Luxor used to prepare bodies for mummification more than 3,000 years ago.

Recommended for you

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Apr 19, 2014

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

Apr 17, 2014

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

Apr 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.