“The excavation uncovered a huge religious center with three temples, a sacred lake, more than 1,500 objects, busts, statues, gold pieces, and numerous depictions of Alexander the Great, Queen Cleopatra, and the Ptolemaic family coins,” Martinez told CNN.
Catherine Martinez discovers a tunnel that may lead to a lost tomb. credit: Kathleen Martinez-Nazar/Taposiris Magna Project
“The most interesting finds are the complex tunnels and subsidence structures leading to the Mediterranean,” she added. Exploring these underwater structures will be the next stage in her search for the lost tomb of the Queen of Egypt – a journey that began in 2005.
“My perseverance is not to be confused with obsession. I admire Cleopatra as a historical figure. She was a victim of Roman propaganda designed to distort her image,” Martinez said.
“She was an educated woman, probably the first to study formally at the Alexandria Museum, the cultural center of her time,” said Martinez, who said she admired Cleopatra as a student, language Scientist, Mother and Philosopher.
According to popular belief, when her husband, the Roman general Mark Antony, died in her arms in 30 BC, Cleopatra quickly took her own life by letting a snake bite her. The moment has been immortalized in art and literature—but, two thousand years later, little is known about the location of their remains.
Elizabeth Taylor played Cleopatra in the 1963 film Cleopatra, with Richard Burton as Mark Anthony. credit: 20th Century Fox
A series of clues led Martinez to believe that Cleopatra’s tomb may be located in the temple of Osiris in the ruined city of Taposiris Magna on Egypt’s northern coast, where the Nile meets the Mediterranean.
Chief among them is the name itself. According to Martinez, Cleopatra was considered in her day to be the “incarnation of the goddess Isis”, while Antony was considered to be the incarnation of the god Orissis, Isis’ husband.
Martinez believes that Cleopatra may have chosen to bury her husband in a temple to reflect this myth. Of all the 20 temples around Alexandria she studied, Martinez said, “no other place, structure or temple combines as many conditions as the Temple of Taposiris Magna.”
Excavations to date have unearthed more than 1,500 ancient objects. credit: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism
In 2004, Martinez brought her theory to Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who was then Egypt’s minister of antiquities. A year later, her project was approved.
After years of searching, Martinez felt she was getting closer.
Excavations so far have shown that “the temple was dedicated to Isis” – another sign that Martinez believes the lost tomb is nearby – as well as the undersea tunnel.
The search for the lost tomb has taken Martinez under the Mediterranean Sea. credit: Kathleen Martinez-Nazar/Taposiris Magna Project
Now, Martinez says, she’s at the “start of a new journey” — digging underwater.
The Egyptian coastline has been hit by earthquakes for centuries, causing parts of the Taposiris Grand Canyon to collapse and sink into the waves, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
That’s where Martinez and her team are looking next. Although “it’s too early to know where these tunnels lead”, she is hopeful.
If the tunnel leads to Cleopatra, “it will be the most important discovery of the century,” she said.