He spoke at a conference in Palermo, Italy, and it was peremptory: "I know where he is the tomb of Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt". Zahi Hawass, the former head of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, receives categorical statements like this. which are often criticized by eminent Egyptologists who accuse him of preferring archeology-show to rigorous scientific work.
For now, Hawass does not reveal the coordinates of the tomb and does not elaborate details that could somehow corroborate what he says, but he never tires of repeating that he is "very close" to unveiling one of the most exciting mysteries in the history of his country. "I think I found it [a sepultura]. I'm on the right track. I have high hopes of meeting you soon, "he said during the Sicilian conference, quoted here by the Spanish newspaper ABC. "The precise location has given us, in the course of the works, many elements that will undoubtedly lead us to the tomb of the historical figure of Cleopatra [c.69-30 a.C.]. So we now know exactly where we should dig. "
In April 2009, in collaboration with a Dominican team led by Kathleen Martinez, the archaeologist, who focused much of her career on this quest for the tomb of the last Egyptian queen, he had already talked about dozens of artifacts gathered near the ruins where he believed to be buried the two lovers who died more than two thousand years ago. It is a temple dedicated to the god Osiris, 45 kilometers south-west of Alexandria, a city on the Mediterranean and capital of the country during the Ptolemaic dynasty (323-30 BC), founded shortly after the death of Alexander the Great, when his empire it was divided and Egypt would have adapted to the young general Ptolemy Lake.
In this series of objects there is a sculpture that most likely will represent Cleopatra and Antonio in the arms, the head of a queen alabaster statue, 22 coins with an effigy and a ceramic fragment of what could be the funeral mask of this politician and who was one of the most important figures of the last phase of the Roman Republic.
In the same area of the temple of Osiris, and even ten years ago, another 27 tombs have been identified, having been found ten mummies. According to research conducted in the underground in 2011, using radar, what is believed to belong to Cleopatra Marco Antonio would not have been touched.
Now, Zahi Hawass explained to Palermo, the investigation has entered a delicate phase, since the underground crypts and corridors to be excavated by archaeologists are flooded by the proximity of a lake and therefore inaccessible.
A love for eternity?
Cleopatra VII, the last queen of Egypt, is one of the most fascinating figures of antiquity. As far as we know – historically it is not much and some of its contemporary sources, like the biography of Octavio, his adversary, give him a distorted portrait, insisting more on his ability to seduce and deceive than on his qualities as a crafty ruler and a cultured woman, interested in arts and letters as in science, and above all in what remains to be known.
Its ability to attract the curiosity of the scientific community but also that of the non-specialized public is also linked to the image that has been adhering to it, thanks to its beauty that has become legendary (something that the iconographic sources of the time seem not to confirm) and the relations he maintained with two powerful Romans: Julius Caesar, assassinated in 44 BC and presumably the father of one of his sons; and Marco Antonio, who will have been his great love, with whom he will challenge Rome and share the last 11 years of his life.
The playwright William Shakespeare and his Anthony and Cleopatra (1606-07) reinforce the romantic side of this couple's alliance that Hawass and Kathleen Martinez believe to be buried in Taposiris Magna, a name that refers to an ancient necropolis at the same time and to the temple of Osiris , that today . This piece and other historical sources have subsequently fueled the film versions of this tragic love. Theda Bara (in the film by J. Gordon Edwards of 1917) was the great Cleopatra of silent films, but in the collective imagination lives especially that played by Elizabeth Taylor in the version of Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1963), with Richard Burton in the essay by Marco Antonio, a production behind which the two actors would fall in love, starting one of Hollywood's most intense and stormy novels.
Remember that what remained for the history of antiquity – that of Anthony and Cleopatra – ended with the two lovers who committed suicide after the military forces of both had been defeated in the battle of Actium (31 BC) by those of Ottavio, adopted son and heir of Julius Caesar who would become the first Roman emperor, with the name of Augustus.
The Roman soldier killed himself with his own sword, the last queen of Egypt with the poison, not to be humiliated by Octávio and to see his country become a province of the Roman Empire. The Roman historian Plutarch wrote that the future Augustus allowed them to be buried together, respecting the desire of both, not knowing until now where his tomb is located.
Wait to see
This Thursday guarantees the daily The country that there are many Egyptologists who do not share the enthusiasm of Zahi Hawass and Kathleen Martinez, accusing them of not yet providing any conclusive proof of the location of the tomb. Why should not Cleopatra have been buried among the other Ptolemaic rulers in the great royal necropolis of Alexandria? By decision of Octávio, so that his tomb did not become a place of pilgrimage? Or why did he want his mausoleum to be in a temple dedicated to Osiris? And Marco Antonio, would have allowed his body to be mummified according to the Egyptian precepts and not cremated as he had commanded the Roman tradition? The questions are many, the possibilities to respond even more.
For Hawass, there is nothing strange in the fact that Cleopatra and Antonio were supposedly buried in the Temple of Osiris: "It is a monumental funeral, worthy of royalty, very important.It is not a place at all," he said , always according to the ABC.
For now the skepticism of science must wait for the research to progress and bring more concrete results, before allowing the optimism to settle. More critical of Hawass's style, they add that this climate of anticipation of a discovery as spectacular as the location of the tomb of the mythical sovereign of Egypt, who died at age 39, 22 of whom in power, can distract attention from what has been the fiasco of the efforts of the archaeologist to find the tomb of another queen, Ankhesenamon, Tutankhamun's wife, in the Valley of the Kings, in 2017. It also allows to remind potential foreign tourists that attacks at the end of the year remain appalling, it is worth visiting Egypt because there are still many mysteries to be revealed in it.