Aradar survey of the temple of Taposiris Magna, west of Alexandria in Egypt, was completed last month as part of the ongoing search for the tomb of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. The expedition excavating the temple and its surrounding area is headed by Dr. Zahi Hawass and Dr. Kathleen Martinez from the Dominican Republic.
The recent radar survey is a significant step forward and was carried out by an Egyptian team, with American expert Dr. Roger Vickers serving as a consultant. The radar revealed three possible areas of interest where a tomb may be located. These locations have been passed to the archaeological team who received the results of the survey with great interest, and will begin excavation of the targets next week.
Radar survey at the Temple of Taposiris Magna in progress. Image: Supreme Council of Antiquities
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, twenty of them shaped like vaulted sarcophagi, partly underground and partly above ground. The remaining seven consist of staircases leading to simple burial chambers. Inside these tombs, the team has found a total of ten mummies, two 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.
Mummies in one of the newly discovered tombs outside the temple. Image: Supreme Council of Antiquities
Dr. Martinez stated that the expedition has been excavating a temple at Taposiris Magna dedicated to the goddess Isis, and even 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 theidea recently suggestedthat 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 which bears some similarity to known portraits of Mark Antony himself.