Cleopatra’s ability to roil passion in men so powerful as Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony (who was her lover and true love), and the enlightenment with which she bolstered her country’s status as a world power have left people puzzled over the whereabouts of Cleopatra’s tomb since she was last seen in her mausoleum in the legendary deathbed tableau before she was found dead. Although she is an interesting historical figure, archaeologists took the mystery of her burial place with earnest only in the last decades.
The systematical search for the last queen of Egypt begun when a woman from the Dominican Republic named Kathleen Martinez contacted Zahi Hawass (then secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities) in 2004 and came to share a theory she’d developed: that Cleopatra might be buried in a tumbledown temple near the coastal desert town of Taposiris Magna, 28 miles west of Alexandria.
Since Cleopatra was last seen in the royal tombs area, Hawass thought that she would be buried facing the palace in Alexandria. However, over time, Martinez’s reasoning persuaded him into another theory that might be worth exploring: that Cleopatra had been clever enough to make sure she and Anthony were secretly buried where no one would disturb their eternal life together.
Martinez was a prodigy child who’d earned her law degree at the age of 19, and she was teaching archaeology at the University of Santo Domingo, but it was an avocation; she’d never been to Egypt or handled a trowel. Her obsession with Cleopatra was traced to an argument she’d had with her father who had called the Egyptian queen a trollop. From that moment on Kathleen was determined to learn everything she could about the queen. She had become a fulltime archaeologist faster than anyone could imagine. She constantly reported to Hawass, who had also provided her with scientists and excavators.
Furthermore, it was Cleopatra’s intense identification with Isis, and her royal role as the manifestation of the great goddess of motherhood, fertility, and magic, combined with the Egyptian idea of an afterlife that ultimately led Kathleen Martinez to Taposiris Magna (temple; The suffix Osiris in its name implied the site was a sacred spot, where legend says that the body of Osiris had been buried). Like other queens before her, Cleopatra sought to link her identity with the great Isis (and Mark Antony with Osiris) and to be venerated as a goddess. She wanted to reenact the legend of these gods, a cult that grants immortality. Legend says that after Osiris was murdered his sister and wife, Isis, had tricked the sun god into revealing his name, which granted her the power to resurrect her brother-husband. After their deaths, the gods would