Nov 07, 2022 I Paul Seaburn

Tunnel to Tomb of Cleopatra May Have Been Found

Archeologists are notorious for making announcements that they are ‘close’ to finding some long-lost location, tomb, artifact or other historical legend which has defied all previous searches. Unfortunately, their purpose is often one of need – archeology missions are funded by museums, government, rich donors and the like who must be coddled when the search takes longer than anticipated, and motivated when the mission runs over budget. One such mission is the search for the burial site of Cleopatra VII – the queen and last ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt from 51 to 30 BCE until her legendary death, first said to be suicide by a poisonous asp but most likely was by poison. Her tomb and that of her suicidal lover Marc Antony were lost due to the political turmoil of her reign and death and many archeologists have attempted to find it. Another “we’re so close” announcement came this week from an archeologist who has been searching for the tomb of Cleopatra since 2005. Is this finally the real tomb?

Temple of Hathor, Dendera, Cleopatra and Caesar Osiris, wall luxor Egypt, Signs and symbols (Shutterstock)

"Near the temple, archaeologists found two heads of alabaster, one is for a person from the Ptolemaic era, from 305 to 30 BC, while the other is for a sphinx."

Ahram Online reports that Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced the discovery of a huge tunnel-aqueduct system and various royal busts and statues, potentially dating to the Graeco-Roman period, near the Ptolemaic-period Taposiris Magna temple in Borg El-Arab, west of the city of Alexandria on the Mediterranean. This Dominican-Egyptian expedition was led by Kathleen Martinez, who has been on her quest to find the tomb of Cleopatra since 2005. Martinez is from the Dominican Republic, not formally trained as an archeologist (she’s a former lawyer) and has focused exclusively on the Taposiris Magna, a sprawling temple of about seven square km located some 50 km west of the Mediterranean city of Alexandria that is dedicated to the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis. With the challenges of being from the Dominican Republic – not a nation known for Egyptian archology – and searching in an area that is not one of the leading candidates for finding Cleopatra’s tomb, it is easy to see why any publicity Martinez can get would be welcome. Martinez announced she was close in 2020 on a Science Channel special and again in December 2021. It was then that she acknowledged why she had to keep attention focused on her expedition.

“Everything you want to do in life comes with a price.”

Martinez believes that because Cleopatra considered herself the embodiment of the goddess Isis, the wife of Osiris, it would be appropriate for her to flee from Alexandria to Taposiris Magna to end her life there and avoid being taken alive to Rome for an inevitable public shaming. Other tunnels and artifacts have been found at the temple site, but this massive structure has been hidden underneath the Mediterranean Sea until being found by Marinez’s team. She told Ahram Online that the expedition determined this tunnel-aqueduct is an exact replica of the Eupalinos Tunnel in Greece, which is 1,036 meters (3400 feet) long and runs through Mount Kastro. That tunnel was built in the sixth century BCE to serve as an aqueduct supplying fresh water to the city of Samos. Martinez says the Taposiris Magna Tunnel is a greater engineering feat than this UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site.

“Taposiris Magna Tunnel is an engineering feat of outstanding importance. Inscriptions were found on a wall inside the tunnel of Taposiris Magna and they are currently being studied.”

After removing heavy layers of mud, the expedition team found pottery, amphoras vases), busts and statues of the goddess Isis, coins with the portrait and names of Queen Cleopatra and Alexander the Great, and a foundation deposit that proves the main sanctuary temple of Taposiris Magna was built by Ptolemy IV and dedicated to goddess Isis. (Photos of the tunnel and the artifacts can be seen here.) The stone tunnel itself is 13 meters (42 feet) beneath the surface and 2 meters (6.6 feet) high. As Martinez tells Greek City Times, the tunnel is “an engineering miracle” which survived at least 23 earthquakes  which hit the Egyptian Mediterranean coast between 320 and 1303 CE and caused parts of the Temple of Taposiris Magna to sink and collapse.

“If the world was crazy about King Tut, it will be way crazier about Cleopatra’s tomb if found. Besides the scientific value of finding it, can you imagine what it will do to tourism in Egypt? Cleopatra was the final chapter of ancient Egypt, while King Tut was just a boy king who did little for Egypt but attracted much attention essentially because his tomb was found intact.”

Kathleen Martinez said that to The National in December 2021, but she has been less outspoken about this new discovery of the aqueduct/tunnel. Perhaps over 15 years of partly self-financing (with some help from a senior diplomat in charge of cultural relations at the embassy of the Dominican Republic in Cairo) expedition which has uprooted her family, ended her marriage and drawn criticism of her self-taught archeology skills. Nonetheless, her discovery of the tunnel is monumental and deserves praise. However, does it mean she’s close enough to finding the tomb of cleopatra that her next public press conference will be a formal announcement?

Abstract ancient Egyptian background, Cleopatra.(Shutterstock)

The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced on Nov. 3, 2022, the discovery of the stone tunnel, the two alabaster heads, and several potteries at the Temple of Taposiris Magna. It did not link them to Cleopatra … yet. The Romans destroyed most of the records pertaining to Cleopatra and the Ptolemaic dynasty after they captured Egypt and Roman historians told the stories of her reign with their own spin on them that favored Rome and disparaged Egypt and Cleopatra. Kathleen Martinez is not only fighting traditional archeologists and Egyptian authorities who do not believe Cleopatra died at the temple, she’s fighting history. It’s no wonder that all she will say is that she is “close” to following this tunnel to the tomb of Cleopatra and possibly Marc Antony.

“So, if we can discover the tomb of Cleopatra, or any one of her Ptolemaic predecessors, Taposiris Magna could be the Greek version of the Valley of the Kings.”

Let’s hope that is Kathleen Martinez’s next announcement.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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