Where is Cleopatra buried

archeology : Where is Cleopatra?

Zahi Hawass loves spectacular performances. "This could be the greatest discovery of the 21st century," said the head of the Egyptian Antiquities Administration triumphantly over the weekend. He had specially invited to the sandstone ruins of the temple of Taposiris Magna - 50 kilometers west of Alexandria - to announce the possible archaeological sensation: "We hope to find the tomb of Cleopatra, and undamaged." On Wednesday, a special device in Borg al-Arab arrive near the Egyptian Mediterranean coast, with which X-rays can be made up to 70 meters deep. For inside the ancient temple, which was built in the third century BC, several deep shafts were discovered, three of which were possibly used for burials. And Cleopatra and her Roman lover, Mark Antony, could lie in one of these tunnels.

The love drama of the two, the relationship between the Egyptian queen and Julius Caesar and the mysterious circumstances of her death have fired people's imagination since ancient times and inspired the works of numerous writers, composers and painters. William Shakespeare created a literary monument for the famous duo with the tragedy "Antony and Cleopatra". Hollywood's 1963 film saga "Cleopatra" starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton is still a classic today.

After the defeat against their mutual adversary Octavian, the most famous lovers of antiquity committed suicide in quick succession, he with a dagger, she with snake venom. But as the historian Plutarch reports, the victorious Octavian was magnanimous. He allowed both of them to be buried together in a secret place "in a dignified and royal manner" - where exactly, nobody knows to this day.

The archaeologist Kathleen Martinez from the Dominican Republic, who has been studying the fate of Cleopatra for 14 years, came to the conclusion after extensive studies that the Taposiris Temple, built by Ptolemy II 2300 years ago, could be the place we were looking for. “It was the holiest place of the time,” she argues. Burying someone here and not in a public cemetery was the best protection to protect the two prominent corpses from desecration by the Romans. The 40-year-old archaeologist also assumes that the grave is specially encased and therefore still intact. According to their assumption, Cleopatra's body was mummified, while Marcus Antonius was buried in a Roman general's uniform.

For a long time Martinez was alone with her theory. Most of their peers are convinced that their grave was sunk in an earthquake in Alexandria in the 8th century. But since Martinez ’excavation team discovered a Cleopatra's head made of alabaster under the temple area last year, she has also been able to inspire the head of antiquities, Zahi Hawass, for her project. At the weekend he presented other finds from the excavation campaign: 22 bronze coins adorned with the image of Cleopatra and a fragment of a mask that may have belonged to Mark Antony. Shortly before, the archaeologists had found ten gold-covered mummies of noblemen in the temple precinct, further important evidence for Hawass that burials were also carried out here. "That won me over," he said.

But it will be some time before the three underground chambers can actually be opened. Because the temple is close to the summer residence of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, who escapes the sweltering heat in Cairo for a few months from June onwards. “We are only allowed to dig until the end of May,” says Martinez. “And we don't know whether we can get to the burial chambers by then.” If not, all Cleopatra fans will have to wait at least until autumn. Martin Gehlen / Cairo

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