Could Cleopatra's tomb be discovered? Experts find 'miracle' tunnel at Egyptian temple

8 November 2022, 10:27 | Updated: 8 November 2022, 10:35

The tunnel has been discovered at a temple to the Greek god Osiris
The tunnel has been discovered at a temple to the Greek god Osiris. Picture: Alamy/Museum of Tourism and Antiquities

By Will Taylor

Archaeologists have discovered a "miracle" tunnel carved beneath an Egyptian temple that could lead to the missing tomb of Cleopatra.

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The 4,800ft-long tunnel, which runs under the Taposiris Magna Temple in the Alexandria region, could lead experts to the final resting place of the Egyptian queen and her lover Mark Antony.

Kathleen Martinez, an archaeologist from the University of San Domingo, has been convinced that the two are buried in the temple and it could be key to finding them.

She has conceded there is a 1% chance of finding their remains but if they did locate Cleopatra it would be "the most important discovery of the 21st century".

Elizabeth Taylor portrayed Cleopatra
Elizabeth Taylor portrayed Cleopatra. Picture: Alamy

Cleopatra and Mark Antony died after losing the Battle of Actium in Greece to Octavian, Caesar's heir who was battling for control of Rome's empire.

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They are thought to have killed themselves – legend has it Cleopatra was bitten by a venomous snake in 30BC.

But their tombs have never been found.

Ms Martinez believes they had planned to be buried at Taposiris Magna.

The tunnel has been discovered near a temple of Osiris
The tunnel has been discovered near a temple of Osiris. Picture: Museum of Tourism and Antiquities
A raft of findings have been discovered
A raft of findings have been discovered. Picture: Museum of Tourism and Antiquities

"Cleopatra negotiated with Octavian to allow her to bury Mark Antony in Egypt," she told National Geographic.

"She wanted to be buried with him because she wanted to reenact the legend of Isis and Osiris.

"The true meaning of the cult of Osiris is that it grants immortality.

"After their deaths, the gods would allow Cleopatra to live with Antony in another form of existence, so they would have eternal life together."

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The tunnel has been described as a "geometric miracle". It is about six feet high and is similar to another piece of ancient engineering, the Tunnel of Eupalinos on the Greek island Samos.

Archaeologists have found it sitting about 43ft below the temple.

Pottery has been found under mud sediment in a section that was submerged under water.

Coins of Cleopatra, the much earlier Alexander the Great, statues of Isis, the Egyptian goddess, and headless statues have also been found.

The tunnel could lead to the discovery of Cleopatra's tomb
The tunnel could lead to the discovery of Cleopatra's tomb. Picture: Museum of Tourism and Antiquities
The Museum of Tourism and Antiquities posted images from the discovery
The Museum of Tourism and Antiquities posted images from the discovery. Picture: Museum of Tourism and Antiquities

Cleopatra was the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a long line of Egyptian rulers who traced their ancestry to Ptolemy, a commander in the army of Alexander the Great who seized control of Egypt when the Macedonian Empire disintegrated.

She ruled from 51BC and came into conflict with her brother, Ptolemy XIII.

Her and Julius Caesar entered into a relationship as Rome's influence on Egypt grew.

After he was assassinated, she became the lover of one of his followers, Mark Antony, who became embroiled in a new Roman civil war with Octavian.

The latter had been named as Caesar's heir and would defeat Antony and Cleopatra before ultimately transforming Rome into the Roman Empire.

Antony killed himself after mistakenly believing Cleopatra had taken her own life. She later died in what is commonly believed to have been a suicide.

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