The mummies of two ancient high-status Egyptians discovered in a temple on the Nile Delta can take researchers one step closer to discovering the remains of Cleopatra, the legendary Egyptian queen.
The mummies, which had been undisturbed for 2,000 years, are in a poor state of conservation because, according to the Guardian, water has leaked into the grave.
But they were originally covered in gold leaf – a luxury reserved only for the best members of society’s elite – meaning they may have had personal contact with Cleopatra.
The male and female mummies may have been priests who played a key role in preserving the power of the legendary Egyptian queen and her lover, Mark Anthony.
Also found on the site were 200 coins bearing Cleopatra’s name and face, allegedly pressed based on Cleopatra’s direct instructions.
The location of the long-lost tomb of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII from the year 30 BC remains unknown, although it is located somewhere near the Egyptian city of Alexandria.
But this research team is convinced that excavations in the ancient city of Taposiris Magna, which is marked by a temple still standing there, will soon uncover the old couple’s resting place.
The two mummies found in a sealed tomb in Taposiris Magna, where excavations are taking place to cover Cleopatra’s tomb
The temple is located near Alexandria, the capital of ancient Egypt and where Cleopatra was in 30 BC. Committed suicide
Despite researchers excavating the site since 2005, only a small percentage of the sprawling site has been explored.
The mummies have been found in the very first intact tomb ever opened in Taposiris Magna – an event that will air a Channel 5 documentary this week.
“Although now covered with 2,000 years of underground dust, these mummies would have been spectacular at the time,” Dr. Glenn Godenho, an associate professor of Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, the Guardian.
“To be covered with gold leaf would have been important members of society.”
One of the mummies was found depicting a scarab tormented in gold leaf, symbolizing rebirth.
But the 200 coins bearing the likeness of Cleopatra directly connect the Pharaoh ruler with Taposiris Magna, which was founded in the third century BC.
The queen’s ‘prominent nose and double chin’, as depicted on the coins, suggests that she was not as conventionally beautiful as the actresses who portrayed her on-screen – most memorable by Elizabeth Taylor in the movie ‘Cleopatra’ from 1963.
Archaeologists seeking the tomb of Anthony and Cleopatra (pictured played by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 film) have targeted a site in northern Egypt
Dr. Kathleen Martinez, an academic from the Dominican Republic, is leading the excavation at Taposiris Magna Temple.
After working there for more than 14 years, Dr. Martinez and her colleagues are more convinced than ever that Cleopatra’s grave will be found there.
Dr. Martinez responds to the opening of the newly found mummies in Taposiris Magna in the Channel 5 documentary, which airs Thursday.
After removing a first limestone slab, she says, “Oh my god, there are two mummies … See this miracle.”
Osteoarchaeologist, Dr. Linda Chapon, works to preserve the two mummies found in a sealed grave in Taposiris Magna
Experts believe that Cleopatra made plans for herself and Anthony to be buried in a temple called Taposiris Magna to imitate the ancient myth of Isis and Osiris
Cleopatra was the last pharaoh of Egypt and ruler of the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt, from 51 BC. Until 30 BC.
Cleopatra and her Roman lover Mark Anthony may have been buried on the site 2,000 years ago because of her desire to imitate an ancient prophecy, Dr. Martinez believes.
During her lifetime, which ran from 69 BC to 30 BC, Cleopatra was known as a temptress and a fascinating personality.
She used her charms to seduce Julius Caesar first to strengthen Egypt’s alliance with Rome, then to seduce one of his successors, Mark Anthony.
To get herself and Anthony as rulers in the minds of the Egyptian people, she also worked hard to associate them with the myth of Isis and Osiris.
Dr. Glenn Godenho and Dr. Kathleen Martinez at the Taposiris Magna Temple near Alexandria in Egypt
Kathleen Martinez, who leads the excavation, believes the site was strongly associated with the myth of Isis and Osiris – a myth Cleopatra often tried to imitate during her lifetime
According to the myth, Osiris was murdered and cut to pieces scattered all over Egypt.
After finding all the pieces and making her husband whole again, Isis was able to rouse him for a while.
Martinez believes that Taposiris Magna was closely associated with the myth because the name means ‘tomb of Osiris’.
The inclusion of ‘Osiris’ could mean that it was one of the places where his body was spread in the story.
The temple at Taposiris Magna. The opening of the very first intact tomb in Taposiris Magna is shown on Channel 5 this week
The inside of the Taposiris Magna temple, where excavations are taking place. The temple was founded between 280 and 270 BC
After Mark Anthony committed suicide after a defeat to Octavian, but before her own suicide, Cleopatra drew up detailed plans to have them both buried there, following the myth. Martinez.
She told it earlier National Geographic: “Cleopatra negotiated with Octavian to allow her to bury Mark Antony in Egypt.
“She wanted to be buried with him because she wanted to act out the legend of Isis and Osiris.
The real meaning of the cult of Osiris is that it confers immortality. After their death, the gods would allow Cleopatra to live in a different form of existence with Antony, so that they would have eternal life together. ‘
However, there are doubts about the theory, as other experts believe Cleopatra was buried hastily in Alexandria itself – the city from which she ruled Egypt until her death, presumably caused by snake venom.
The Hunt for Cleopatra’s Tomb will be shown on Channel 5 on Thursday, July 16 at 9:00 PM.
ANTHONY, CLEOPATRA AND PTOLEMAIC DYNASTY
Often known as the world’s first celebrity, Cleopatra was the last of a long line for Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt – descendant of the Greek general Alexander the Great.
By the time of her birth, his empire had been reduced to a shadow of his former self, while the ruling class was prone to bitter fighting.
Married to her brother Ptolemy XIII in her father’s will, she united with Julius Caesar against him – famously smuggling herself to see the Roman general inside a carpet so that she could come to terms with him.
After his assassination in 44BC Egypt, Mark Anthony was appointed to oversee the eastern reaches of the Republic – including the independent kingdom of Egypt.
Although Anthony was married to Octavian’s sister, he had a relationship with Cleopatra and had three children.
Ultimately, Anthony and Octavian turned against each other and fought for control of the Republic, which ended with a defeat in the Battle of Actium.
Octavian chased Anthony and Cleopatra back to Alexandria, where they were eventually captured.
Anthony died in Cleopatra’s arms after stabbing himself to death before committing suicide – reportedly from being bitten by an asp.
Octavian returned to Italy, where he became the first emperor of Rome, while Cleopatra and Anthony were buried in Egypt.