Archaeologists discover tunnel underneath Egyptian temple, may lead to Cleopatra's tomb

Archaeologists discover tunnel underneath Egyptian temple, may lead to Cleopatra's tomb

The tunnel dates back to the Ptolemaic period, between 304 BC to 30 BC

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered a rock tunnel beneath the Taposiris Magna Temple, in the ancient city of Taposiris Magna, west of Alexandria. The tunnel is carved into the rock at a depth of about 13 metres below the ground, where several artefacts including coins, beheaded statues, as well as statues of deities were found.

The Egyptian Dominican archaeological mission of the University of San Domingo headed by Dr Kathleen Martinez, described the discovered tunnel as a “geometric miracle”. In a statement, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said that the tunnel is 1,305 metres long, and about 2 metres high.

Dr Martinez also compared the architectural design of this tunnel to Greece’s Jubilinos Tunnel but this one is longer, she said. However, the archaeology of the Taposiris Magna temple is complex given that parts of it are submerged under the Mediterranean water and it has been hit by numerous earthquakes over the years.

During an interview, Martinez said that she is convinced that the tunnel could lead them to the tomb of the Egyptian queen Cleopatra and her lover Mark Antony, while she conceded that the chances of that happening are one per cent it would still be “the most important discovery” of this century.

Cleopatra and Mark Antony had died after losing a battle in Greece to Octavian, Caesar's heir who at the time was fighting to gain control of the Roman empire. Some believe that the two killed themselves but their tombs were never found.

“Cleopatra negotiated with Octavian to allow her to bury Mark Antony in Egypt”, said Martinez, in an interview with National Geographic. She added that the Egyptian queen wanted this to reenact the legend of Isis and Osiris, “The true meaning of the cult of Osiris is that it grants immortality.”

So that after their deaths, “the gods would allow Cleopatra to live with Antony in another form of existence, so they would have eternal life together,” said Martinez. Notably, the temple was built in honour of the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld, Osiris and his wife Egyptian goddess Isis.

According to Live Science, the tunnel dates back to the Ptolemaic period, between 304 BC to 30 BC, when Egypt was ruled by kings descended from one of Alexander the Great's generals.

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During the previous excavation seasons, the team also found several important artefacts including coins engraved with the images and names of both Cleopatra and Alexander the Great. Additionally, the team also found several beheaded statues as well as statues of the goddess Isis and a number of pottery vessels in the mud sediment in a section submerged underwater.

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