This one’s starting to bother me, even though I’ve now seen the ‘mask’ being identified with varying degrees of certainty as ‘possibly’ Marcus Antonius. A correspondent sends in a nice video from the site (from a German version of Reuters; the video is in English), which I can’t embed, so here’s the link. What I find interesting here is that a year ago Zahi Hawass had the alabaster head and mask available to him and by June was saying in Al Ahram that “We have found nothing that indicates the presence of Cleopatra’s or Anthony’s tomb.” In the video, what appears to be causing Hawass’ change of face is the discovery of twenty or so rockcut tomb/burials near the temple, which he believes indicates the presence of the burial of someone “important” nearby. We then get a very good example of petitio principis in the claim that “no one would be buried beside a temple without a reason”. Let’s see, Dr. Hawass … do you think the connection between Isis and the burial/resurrection of some other well-known Egyptian divinity might not cause folks to want to be buried near her temple if possible (why is Augustus’ mausoleum in the same general area as the Isaeum in the Campus Martius, he said, thinking out loud. I’ll track that one down later)? Why do these burials have to be connected to Tony and Cleo? Then come the artifacts found last year … we’ll note in passing that it’s interesting that the alabaster head has a hole drilled in it (why?).
That said, I’ve had correspondence with various folks (who desire to remain anonymous) on this and another question which seems to be bothering folks is the nature of the non-Hawass archaeologist’s — i.e. Kathleen Martinez’ — qualifications. An AFP piece has also recently landed in my mailbox which makes you go hmmmmm:
The team, led by antiquities chief Zahi Hawass and Kathleen Martinez, an Egyptologist from the Dominican Republic, hopes that the site around the ancient temple of Taposiris Magna, erected to honour the Egyptian god Isis in around 300 BC, will soon reveal the legendary lovers’ final resting place.
The team has worked there for three years — the latest in a chain of digs since an expedition by Napoleon in the 19th century.
Martinez says that the find of a carved male head, a fragment of a mask with a cleft-chin, coins and other artifacts prove that this is Anthony’s burial site.
And she is convinced that Cleopatra’s body also lies somewhere on this rocky outcrop overlooking the Mediterranean, 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Alexandria.
“There are historic proofs in the works of (Roman chronicler) Plutarch where he says Cleopatra was buried with Mark Anthony,” Martinez said.
A lawyer by training, Martinez said that trying to unravel the fate of the doomed lovers began as a hobby but has now become what Hawass said could be “one of the most important discoveries of the 21st century.”
Martinez said she “always had the conviction that the tomb of Anthony and Cleopatra was in this temple. We have been looking for the right tunnels, but so far we have only found the entrance to other chambers.
“I studied Cleopatra for 14 years, and I came up with the idea that her death was a religious act, to be bitten by this asp and buried in this temple, so I started searching for the temple,” she said.
“She couldn’t be buried in a different place from Mark Anthony and be protected by Isis.”
The theory was initially disparaged by experts, and after five years of research, it took another year for Martinez to get approval to dig.
But today even Egypt’s antiquities supremo Hawass enthusiastically endorses the hypothesis, which could lead to the greatest discovery in the country since Howard Carter found the tomb of the boy king Tutankhamun in 1922.
Martinez admitted that “beginner’s luck” may have played a part, as her team found a major clue in the form of a clay fragment linking the site to Isis just inches from where Hungarian archaeologists stopped working four years ago.
Using ground-penetrating radar, her own expedition discovered two large subterranean chambers and an intriguing passageway.
Well at least she wasn’t guided by snakes, but I’m finding it difficult to follow all the claims of evidence we’re being given now; Hawass’ petitio principis is building on Martinez’. And all of a sudden we’re hearing about a “carved male head” — photo please. And as for this “clay fragment” linking the site to Isis, that’s a first as well. It might be salutary to reference a National Geographic photo that was circulating last May:
The item in the upper left was identified as a bronze statue of Aphrodite (and, of course, Aphrodite and Isis are equatable); why isn’t that being mentioned in this context?
Whatever the case, one of my anonymous correspondents also suggests checking out Vörös, Gyozo (ed.), Taposiris Magna, (Egypt Excavation Society of Hungary Publications). My correspondent recalls an “Isis” (as it’s “identified” there) having previously “published” in one of the volumes and is now in the possession of Martinez. I have no access to this, so if anyone out there would like to wade in on this, please leave a comment (or drop me a line if you wish your comments to remain anonymous).
- ‘Beginner’s luck’ may lay trail to Cleopatra tomb (AFP via Google)