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CAIRO - They are among history’s most famous lovers - Antony and Cleopatra, the Roman warrior and the Egyptian queen. From Shakespeare to Hollywood, their story has been told many times. Now, Egypt’s top archeologist, with his own touch of Hollywood style, says he may be closing in on Cleopatra’s tomb.
On a recent sunny day west of Alexandria, Zahi Hawass strides across the rock and rubble of Taposiris Magna, a Ptolemaic temple overlooking the shores of the Mediterranean. Wearing his trademark Indiana Jones hat, he explains that although others have scoured the temple before, this current dig, begun in 2005, has turned up countless new treasures.
He says the team has located the original main entrance and uncovered a series of pharaonic-style entrance blocks. There is also a statue, which Hawass, giving the headless torso a playful pat, says is likely that of Ptolemy IV, one of Cleopatra’s ancestors. “That is really important discoveries ” he says,”in the search for the beautiful, magical queen - Queen Cleopatra.”
The idea of Taposiris as the burial place of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, who killed themselves rather than submit to Antony’s rival Octavian, was proposed by a young Dominican archeologist, Kathleen Martinez. She tries to evoke the couple’s last days, the end of Egypt as an empire. “She has to choose a place that she must be safe after life,” she says, because “the Romans hated her so much, they will search for her body and they will destroy it.”
Martinez notes that, significantly, the temple is dedicated to Isis and Osiris, ancient gods to whom the couple often compared themselves. But she says she is most excited about discovering a tunnel that bores straight down into bedrock. The team has devised a special winch that has already gone down 35 meters. She says she expects there will soon be “important news.”