A radar survey of the temple of Taposiris Magna, west of Alexandria, Egypt, was completed last month as part of the search for the tomb of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. The Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) expedition excavating the temple and its surrounding area is headed by Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the SCA, and Dr. Kathleen Martinez, a scholar from the Dominican Republic.
Dr. Hawass stated that the cooperation between Egypt and the Dominican Republic for the excavation of the temple has been ongoing for about three years. The recent radar survey is the most significant step taken by the team to date. It was carried out by an Egyptian radar team, with American expert Dr. Roger Vickers serving as a consultant. The radar revealed 3 possible spots of interest where a tomb may be located. The expedition has received the results of the survey, and will begin excavating each of these three spots next week.
The most important recent development at Taposiris Magna has been the discovery of a large, previously unknown cemetery outside the temple enclosure. The expedition has found 27 tombs. 20 of them shaped like vaulted sarcophagi, partly underground and partly aboveground. The remaining 7 consist of staircases leading to simple burial chambers. Inside these tombs, the team has found a total of 10 mummies, 2 of them gilded. The discovery of this cemetery indicates that an important person, likely of royal status, could be buried inside the temple. It was common for officials and other high-status individuals in Egypt to construct their tombs close to those of their rulers throughout the pharaonic period. The style of the newly discovered tombs indicates that they were constructed during the Greco-Roman period.
Dr. Martinez stated that the expedition has excavated a temple at Taposiris Magna dedicated to the goddess Isis, and discovered coins depicting the face of Alexander the Great. They have found a number of deep shafts inside the temple, three of which seem to have been used for burials. It is possible that these shafts were the tombs of important people, and the team’s leaders believe that Cleopatra and Mark Antony could have been buried in a deep shaft similar to those already discovered inside the temple.
Dr. Hawass said that the expedition has so far found a beautiful head of Cleopatra, along with 22 coins bearing her image. The statue and coins show her as a beauty, contradicting the idea recently suggested by an English museum curator that the queen was quite ugly. The finds from Taposiris reflect a charm that could have captured the hearts of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and indicate that Cleopatra was in no way unattractive. Moreover, the features of the sculpted head show no sign of African ancestry, contradicting a recently advanced theory. The team has also found many amulets, along with a beautiful headless statue dating to the Ptolemaic Period. Among the most interesting finds is a unique mask depicting a man with a cleft chin. The face bears some similarity to known portraits of Mark Antony himself.