The discovery of a tunnel under an ancient Egyptian temple… Is Cleopatra’s lost tomb at the end?

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — About 20 years ago, Kathleen Martinez, an archaeologist at the University of San Domingo, is searching for the lost tomb of Queen Cleopatra, and now she thinks she’s made a pivotal breakthrough.

Martinez and her team unveiled a rocky tunnel with a length of about 1,305 meters, located about 13 meters below the surface of the earth, in the area of ​​the Temple of Taposiris Magna, west of Alexandria, as the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities recently announced on its Facebook page, which is an architectural design. Experts described it as an “engineering miracle”.

“The excavations have revealed a huge religious center that includes three sanctuaries, a sacred lake, more than 1,500 objects, busts, headless statues, gold pieces, and a huge collection of coins,” Martinez, head of the Dominican Egyptian Mission at the University of San Domingo, told CNN. depicting Alexander the Great, Queen Cleopatra, and the Ptolemies.

“The most interesting discovery is the network of tunnels leading to the Mediterranean and the sunken buildings,” she added.

Exploring these underwater structures will be the next stage in Martinez’s search for the lost tomb of the Queen of Ancient Egypt, a journey she began in 2005.

The lost tomb of Cleopatra
Kathleen Martinez, head of the Dominican Egyptian Archaeological Expedition of the University of San Domingo, has discovered a rock-cut tunnel that could lead to the lost tomb of Queen Cleopatra., plain_textCredit: Kathleen Martinez-Nazar/Taposiris Magna Project

Martinez explained that her perseverance should not be confused with obsession, adding, “I admire Cleopatra as a historical figure, she was the victim of propaganda by the Romans with the aim of tarnishing her image.”

According to Martinez, “(Cleopatra) was an educated woman, who was probably the first to formally study at the Museum of Alexandria, the cultural center of her time.”

When her husband, the Roman general Mark Antony, died in her arms on 30 B.C., Cleopatra committed suicide shortly after, according to popular belief, by letting a venomous snake bite her.

This moment has been immortalized in contemporary art and literature, but more than two thousand years later, little is known about the whereabouts of their remains.

The lost tomb of Cleopatra
Elizabeth Taylor appeared as Cleopatra, and Richard Burton as Mark Anthony, in the 1963 film “Cleopatra”., plain_textCredit: Twentieth Century Fox

A series of evidence led Martinez to believe that Cleopatra’s tomb may be located in the archaeological area, the temple of “Taposiris Magna”, meaning “the tomb of Osiris”, west of Alexandria.

According to Martinez, Cleopatra was considered in her day “the human embodiment of the goddess Isis”, with Antony being considered an incarnation of the god Osiris, Isis’s husband.

Martinez believes that Cleopatra may have chosen to bury her husband in the temple of Taposiris Magna to reflect this legend.

The lost tomb of Cleopatra
Excavations in the tunnel have so far revealed more than 1,500 artifacts., plain_textCredit: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism

Martinez noted that of all the twenty temples scattered around Alexandria that she studied, “no other place or temple combines as many elements as the Temple of Taposiris Magna.”

In 2004 Martinez passed on her theory to Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who was then Egypt’s Minister of Antiquities, and her project was approved a year later.

After years of searching, Martinez feels close to being on target.

Excavations and archaeological surveys so far have revealed that “the temple was dedicated to Isis,” and Martinez believes it is another sign that the lost tomb is located nearby, as are the sunken tunnels.

Martinez added that she is now at “the beginning of a new journey,” referring to the underwater drilling work.

The lost tomb of Cleopatra
The search for Cleopatra’s lost tomb took Martinez under the waters of the Mediterranean., plain_textCredit: Kathleen Martinez-Nazar/Taposiris Magna Project

According to a statement issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, “the Egyptian coast has been hit by at least 23 earthquakes over the centuries, which led to the collapse of part of the Temple of Taposiris Magna and its sinking under the waves.”

This is the next place Martinez and her team will look.

Although it is “too early to know where these tunnels lead”, Martins is optimistic.

If the tunnels lead to Cleopatra’s tomb, she said, “it would be the most important discovery of the century.”

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