Cleopatra’s Tomb Update (sort of)

That dig purportedly into the tomb of Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius is currently on hold, but there’s still some news kicking around. Dominican Today had this a few days ago:

The attorney-turned-archaeologist Kathleen Martinez, who’s proud to proclaim that her work is part of a larger effort by a Dominican-Egyptian team, today said that her search for Cleopatra’s tomb continues and is convinced she’ll soon find it.

She said her search in the region, kilometers west of the ancient port city of Alexandria, has lasted four years in 4 to 5-month periods, and in addition to the Egyptian queen, expects to find at her side the mummified body 50 of her lover, Marc Antony. “Important evidence of a royal tomb was found and I affirm that it’s the tomb of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony.

Martinez also affirms that given the scope and sheer numbers of tombs, her team has found Egypt’s largest cemetery. “It’s the largest cemetery found in Egypt, with its artifacts, a series of 40 to 45 tombs cut into the bedrock 35 meters deep, with tunnels and passageways.”

The archaeologist, interviewed by Huchi Lora on Channel 11, said the digs had to be recently suspended given the extreme summer temperatures and more so from the dangerous conditions they bring about. “The appearance of snakes and scorpions to the surface in the summer season, with 40 plus centigrade temperatures, makes it impossible and risky to continue the excavation.”

Among the important sites found, she noted that of the Taposisirs Magna, or the temple of Osiris, and Isis, determined from the gathered evidence in Greek script, which she said reveal the link to Ptolemy, in Cleopatra’s lineage. “We’ve found artifacts including many coins, the mask of Mar Anthony, busts of Alexander the Great, but the most interesting point is that we’ve been able to find those tunnels.”

Martinez hailed the support given her project by Zahi Hawas, Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, and the “enthusiasm” with which the Egyptian crew works on the sites.

“The Egyptians and our team are working with much enthusiasm, because they are searching for their Queen,” she said of the pharaoh who died in 30 AC.

She said the zone, which had been excavated since 1831 by some of the world’s most renowned archaeologists, still holds many secrets and given he fact that the mummies are so well preserved shows that they belonged to the class of nobles, with the resources to make this type of procedure possible.

She added that the Discovery Channel is going to be filming the excavation, whereas the magazine National Geographic will publish a feature on her work.

Alas, this bit of reportage doesn’t lend any confidence to the claims being made. First of all, it seems rather disingenuous to suggest digs had to be suspended due to heat etc.; there are plenty of digs going on right now in Egypt in that same heat. The real reason — which was mentioned in several news reports (e.g. here ) — is that the site overlooks the summer home of Hosni Mubarek, and security concerns override archaeological ones. Not sure why one would feel a need to use heat and scorpions as an excuse unless one had rather romantic notions about what archaeological digging was about.

I also strongly suspect the “evidence” of a royal tomb is what was mentioned back in April (i.e., the presence of other burials nearby). Perhaps the tunnels are significant (but there might be some ‘parallel excitement’ going on here as well as just before the the Cleo tomb announcements, Zahi Hawass was excited about a mysterious tunnel in the tomb of Seti I), but claims about this being Egypt’s largest cemetery seem to fly in the face of say, the finds at the Bahariya Oasis just a couple of years ago.

I’ve got a bit more to say on this, but need to do some researchin’!

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