Very interesting item at History in an Hour … here’s a tease:
During the third century BCE, the city of Alexandria was home to a remarkable event in the development of ancient medicine as two physicians, named Herophilus and Erasistratus, conducted ground-breaking investigations into internal human anatomy. This research was important not only because it corrected many ancient misconceptions about the body, but because the doctors are believed to have reached their conclusions by dissecting human corpses, a practice outlawed in the Ancient World.
An excerpt from a feature on Zahi Hawass in Speigel … I don’t think comment is necessary ….
Hawass reserves the right to announce all discoveries himself. Not everyone likes this. Some people feel that he is about as interested in serious research as Rapunzel was in having her hair cut.
He boasted that there were “10,000 golden mummies” at the cemetery in Bahariya, but only 200 were found. And he mistakenly declared a shabby find in the Valley of Kings to be the gravesite of a female pharaoh.
His own excavation efforts also appear to be somewhat bizarre. For some time, the master has been searching for the body of Cleopatra in a temple near Alexandria — based on an idea suggested to him by a lawyer from the Dominican Republic.
“Are you sure about this?” a journalist wanted to know. Hawass replied: “Completely, otherwise I wouldn’t have even mentioned it. After all, I don’t want to embarrass myself.”
When nothing was found, despite feverish excavation efforts, Hawass took a granite bust of Cleopatra’s lover, Mark Antony, from a museum last year and pretended that he had just pulled it out of the ground.
In my mailbox this a.m. is an interesting little piece from National Geographic which seems to be answering some of the questions I raised (again) a few days ago about the continuing claims about Taposiris Magna as the site for Tony and Cleo’s tomb (or mostly the latter, I suppose). The post is, ostensibly, about that headless statue find, but goes further. Here’s the first excerpt of interest:
The newfound black granite statue—which stands about 6 feet (1.8 meters) without its head—is thought to be of King Ptolemy IV, because a cartouche carved of the same stone and bearing his name was found near the figure’s base.
Ptolemy IV was one of several Greek royals who ruled Egypt during the Ptolemaic period, from 332 to 30 B.C.
In addition to the headless statue, the Egyptian-Dominican dig team found an inscription, written in Greek and hieroglyphics, in the foundation deposits of one of the temple’s corners. The writing says Ptolemy IV—who ruled from 221 to 205 B.C.—commissioned the temple.
Previously experts had thought that the temple was built during the reign of Ptolemy II, who ruled from 282 to 246 B.C.
“If you are arguing for it to be a burial place for Cleopatra, then the later it is built, the more chance we have to have connections with her—the greater the possibility it was still active during her lifetime,” said Salima Ikram of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, who is not associated with the Taposiris digs.
… not sure I’m being nitpicky, but the difference between Ptolemy IV and Ptolemy II in terms of ‘proximity’ to Cleopatra VII really isn’t significant … anyhoo, we then get some more interesting stuff at the end:
So far, the temple’s cemetery has been found to contain at least 12 mummies, 500 skeletons, and 20 tombs. The bodies were buried facing the temple, which could mean the building contains the tomb of an important figure, Martinez said.
Inside the temple, the team found a place for a sacred pool, rooms likely used for mummification, and chapels dedicated to the gods Osiris and Isis. The powerful pair were husband and wife in Egyptian mythology—a fact that could have inspired the couple to chose the temple as their burial site.
“Cleopatra could [represent] Isis and Marc Antony could be Osiris,” said Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), who is supervising the digs.
And in 2008 the team unearthed an alabaster bust of Cleopatra, coins bearing her image, and a bronze statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, among other artifacts.
“After excavations, we have uncovered what belongs to this temple, to this huge complex, proving it really was one of the most sacred temples in Alexandria” during the Ptolemaic period, said archaeologist and dig leader Kathleen Martinez.
“And because of the solemnity of this temple, and it was so sacred at that time, I believe it could have Cleopatra’s tomb.”
“Perfect Place” to Hide the Dead
Hawass added that Taposiris Magna is a good candidate site for the tombs of Antony and Cleopatra because the legendary couple would have wanted to be sure Roman conquerors couldn’t find and desecrate their graves.
Marc Antony likely suspected that Octavian would have paraded the dead bodies around Rome to show off his military might. The couple would have therefore wanted to be buried in a sacred but secret location outside Alexandria’s royal quarter.
About a year ago the SCA allowed Martinez to start using ground-penetrating radar inside Taposiris Magna. The results show a series of tunnels and as many as eight underground chambers that are still being explored.
“It’s the perfect place to hide their tombs,” said Hawass, who is also a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.
Excavation leader Martinez added that the sheer size of Taposiris Magna would have made any tombs there hard to find.
“This temple complex is five square kilometers,” or roughly two square miles, Martinez said. “We have been searching with new technology—how would the Romans have found them?”
Okay, so it is clear now that we are dealing with a theory based on a genuine example of ‘begging the question’. We are to believe that the Romans — especially in Augustus’ time — had a history of ‘desecrating burial sites’, which, as far as I’m aware, is utterly foreign to the superstitious Roman mindset. Even if examples of same can be found, for this theory to have any legs, one has to totally ignore the testimony of our ancient sources in regards to the corpses of both Antony and Cleopatra, both of which Octavian clearly would have had access to if he was of a ‘desecration mindset.’ Most damning, of course, is the line in Suetonius Aug. 17 which we’ve mentioned before:
Ambobus communem sepulturae honorem tribuit ac tumulum ab ipsis incohatum perfici iussit.
Octavian ALLOWED them to be buried together and clearly knew the site of the tomb. Martinez and Hawass REALLY have to explain the MAJOR discrepancy between our ancient sources and their apparent ‘argument’ for continuing to claim this site as the “secret” burial place of Cleopatra. “Solemnity” and vague ‘conspiracy theories’ don’t cut it.