The Search for Cleopatra

Plutarch, the Roman historian, stated that Cleopatra and Mark Antony were buried together in Alexandria. For years, archaeologists believed Plutarch’s conclusion. The historical evidence suggests that Cleopatra did build a tomb for herself near her royal palace, and so most concluded that Cleopatra’s tomb had sunk beneath the ocean floor, lost with the rest of ancient Alexandria.

Kathleen Martinez, an archaeologist and historian from the Dominican Republic, has a theory that challenges this idea. She believes that Cleopatra and Mark Antony were buried inside the temple dedicated to Isis and Osiris at Taposiris Magna, a location about 45 kilometers west of Alexandria, near an area called Borg el Arab. The religious and political significance of the temple, along with its location, would have made this temple a logical burial place for Cleopatra, since during her reign she associated herself with Isis and Mark Antony with Osiris. The temple of Taposiris Magna, about 45 kilometers west of Alexandria, was described by Plutarch as resplendent with Osirian mystery. Strabo also records that Alexander the Great stopped at this temple on his journey to the oasis at Siwa. As such, it would have been an important place to Cleopatra in life, and perhaps in death.

Share

From National Geographic Magazine

  • Photo: Workers at dawn

    Egyptian Afterlife

    New evidence shows that, human sacrifice helped populate the royal city of the dead.

  • Photo: Desert ruins

    The Black Pharaohs

    An ignored chapter of history tells of a time when kings from deep in Africa conquered ancient Egypt.

  • Photo: Egyptian tomb at night

    The King Herself

    What motivated Hatshepsut to rule ancient Egypt as a man while her stepson stood in the shadows? Her mummy, and her true story, come to light.

Archaeologists

  • Photo: Underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio

    Franck Goddio

    Franck Goddio explains his drive to keep searching for elements of Cleopatra's life.

  • Photo: Zahi Hawass

    Zahi Hawass

    Zahi is looking for that missing piece of Egypt’s story—the tomb of Cleopatra.

Cleopatra in the News