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Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 17:34 EDT

In Search Of Cleopatra’s Tomb

April 16, 2009

Next week, archaeologists will start unearthing sites in Egypt in an effort to unravel the mystery of the final resting place of the historic unfortunate lovers, Cleopatra and Mark Antony, the Associated Press reported.

Three sites located at a temple believed to contain tombs will be excavated in this hunt for the renowned queen of Egypt and Roman general, Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities said in a statement Wednesday.

The council indicated Cleopatra and Mark Antony, whose relationship was later commemorated by William Shakespeare and then in a Hollywood film masterpiece with stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, may be buried in a deep trench below the surface of the earth in a temple close to the Mediterranean Sea.

Among the discoveries already unearthed at the temple last year, an alabaster head of a Cleopatra statue, 22 coins with images of Cleopatra and a mask thought to belong to Mark Antony. 

The council’s statement told of three sites discovered last month during a radar survey of the temple of Taposiris Magna.  The temple, which was constructed under the reign of King Ptolemy II (282-246 B.C.), is located not far from the northern coast near Alexandria. 

The temple has been under excavation by teams from Egypt and the Dominican Republic for the last three years.  Numerous deep trenches inside the temple, some of which are believed to be utilized for burial, have been discovered inside the temple.  Archaeologists presume the lovers could be buried in a similar trench. 

After being defeated in the battle of Actium, the lovers committed suicide in 30 B.C.  Historically, Mark Antony is thought to have stabbed himself with his sword, while Cleopatra is believed to have clutched a poisonous asp to her chest. 

However, this belief is surrounded by much controversy.  Egyptologist, John Baines, of Oxford University in England questioned why Antony’s defeater, Augustus, would have permitted such an honorable resting place. 

“I don’t really see why there should be a particular connection between that site and Antony and Cleopatra,” Baines said.

Egypt’s top archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, pointed out that the recent theory that the queen was “quite ugly,” is proven incorrect with the discovery of the Cleopatra statue and coins.  Both reflect a face of beauty. 

“The finds from Taposiris reflect a charm … and indicate that Cleopatra was in no way unattractive,” said Hawass.

The conception that Cleopatra was not particularly attractive was concluded in 2007 by a group of scholars at the University of Newcastle, who based their conclusion on the characterization of her on a Roman coin that illustrated her as a sharp-nosed, thin-lipped woman with a prominent chin.

A previously unidentified cemetery was discovered by excavators at the site just outside the temple enclosure.  Other findings include 27 tombs, some of which housed 10 mummies. 

The architectural style indicates the tomb was constructed during the Greco-Roman period, according to the statement.  It was common practice of the day to establish cemeteries for the dead near temples where persons of prominence, often royalty, were buried. 

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