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The Mission to Find Cleopatra

posted on: Dec 14, 2022

Dr. Kathleen Martinez searching newly discovered tunnels, Photo Credit: Kathleen Martinez-Nazar/Taposiris Magna Project

By: Karizma Avila / Arab America Contributing Writer

Cleopatra’s intelligence was one of the many traits that guided her successful reign in ancient Egypt. Ensuring no man would ever find her tomb, she has outsmarted experts for centuries in their search to find her. Her intelligence is still remarkable today, as a woman-led archaeologist team is now the closest anyone has come to finding her.   

Cleopatra was queen at 18 years old, spoke nine languages, and studied politics, economics, and mathematics. At 21 she was in the Sinai desert, raising an army to gain her throne back. Her governance won alliances with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, changing the course of history. 

She transformed ancient Egypt with her foreign policy goals. By establishing relations with Arab countries with her charisma, she was able to improve Egypt’s economy, independence, and welfare. 

After ruling ancient Egypt for 21 years, Cleopatra was taken prisoner by the Romans. She escaped Roman captivity only to find her love, Marc Antony, was killed. Cleopatra allegedly took her own life and made sure her and Antony’s tomb could never be found. 

Cleopatra, Photo Credit: tanja-v/shutterstock

Dr. Kathleen Martinez, a lawyer turned archeologist, began her search for Cleopatra based on her theory of where the hidden tomb may be. 

“I studied how she died,” Martinez said. “At that time, death was a critical moment and very meaningful. She used a cobra to kill herself. A snake was smuggled to her in a basket, hidden underneath figs. Egyptians used a cobra to protect the pharaohs. Her death was a message to her followers. She wanted to die as a goddess. It came to me: Cleopatra’s tomb has never been found because she wasn’t buried in a tomb. She and Marc Antony were buried in a temple to Isis and Osiris. There has to be a temple. But which one?”

Martinez’s theory led her and her team to the temple of Taposiris Magna, a temple dedicated to Isis’s husband, Osiris. Despite doubt from the archaeologist community, who told her she would never find anything since the temple has been searched, Martinez has discovered over 600 artifacts along with a tunnel that has changed what we know about the architecture of Egyptian temples. 

Martinez and her team have discovered a religious center with three sanctuaries, a sacred lake, more than 1,500 objects, busts, statues, golden pieces, and a collection of coins portraying Alexander the Great, Queen Cleopatra, and the Ptolemies. 

Along with the artifacts found, Martinez and her team uncovered a 4,281-foot tunnel, located 43 feet underground, in between the walls of the temple. This discovery will change what we know about the architectural design of Egyptian temples forever. 

The team has searched the tunnels to their full capacity. The tunnels have survived many earthquakes which have caused portions of them to collapse and sink under the Mediterranean Sea. 

Discovered tunnels, Photo Credit: Kathleen Martinez-Nazar/Taposiris Magna Project

This has led them to begin their underwater excavations. It’s too early to know where the tunnels may lead, but Martinez and her team are hopeful. 

The recent discoveries have already changed what we know about the architectural design of Egyptian temples but, discovering Cleopatra and Antony could rewrite ancient Egyptian history and become the biggest find of the 21st century. 

Martinez says, “Cleopatra made great contributions to human knowledge and opened us to the world we have now. Every time we see a professional woman such as a doctor, a scientist, or a philosopher, we should think of her.” 

Cleopatra’s power is still influencing us today, as our current calendar traces its roots back to the ancient Egyptian queen. She made strides that have set a model for women everywhere.

If Martinez finds Cleopatra it would be a historic moment for Egypt, Cleopatra, and women all over the world. Martinez set an example to the world by leading this mission, showing us how powerful women can be, just as Cleopatra did.

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