National Geographic : 2011 Jul
• Cleopatra's rule THE LAST OF THE PHARAOHS Cleopatra was a Macedonian Greek and a descendant of Ptolemy, the general of Alexander the Great who founded a dynasty that ruled Egypt for three centuries. She committed suicide as Rome seized control of Egypt, ending 3,000 years of pharaonic rule. that was ancient Alexandria now lies about 20 feet underwater. In the past few decades archaeologists have finally taken up the mystery of Cleopatra's whereabouts and are searching for her burial place in earnest. Underwater excavations begun in 1992 by French explorer Franck Goddio and his European Institute of Underwater Archae- ology have allowed researchers to map out the drowned portions of ancient Alexandria, its piers and esplanades, the sunken ground once occupied by royal palaces. e barnacled dis- coveries brought to the sea's surface---massive stone sphinxes, giant limestone paving blocks, granite columns and capitals---whet the appetite for a better understanding of Cleopatra's world. "My dream is to nd a statue of Cleopatra--- with a cartouche," says Goddio. So far, however, the underwater work has failed to yield a tomb. e only signs of Cleopatra the divers have en- countered are the empty cigarette packs that bear her name, dri ing in the water as they work. More recently, a desert temple outside Alex- andria has become the focus of another search, one that asks whether a monarch of Cleopatra's calculation and foresight might have provided a tomb for herself in a place more spiritually sig- ni cant than downtown Alexandria---some sa- cred spot where her mummi ed remains could rest undisturbed beside her beloved Antony. In November 2006 at his office in Cairo, Zahi Hawass, then secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, pulled out a sheet of Nile Hilton stationery. On it he had sketched the highlights of an archaeological site where he and a team of scientists and excavators had been digging over the previous year. "We are searching for the tomb of Cleopatra," he said, ex- citedly. "Never before has anyone systematically looked for the last queen of Egypt." is particu- lar quest had begun when a woman from the Dominican Republic named Kathleen Martinez contacted Hawass 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 (present-day Abu Sir), 28 miles west of Alexandria. Located between the Mediterranean and Lake Mareotis, the ancient city of Taposiris Magna had been a prominent port town during Cleopatra's time. Its vineyards were famous for their wine. e geographer Strabo, who was in Egypt in 25 . ., mentioned that Taposiris staged a great public festival, most likely in honor of the god Osiris. Nearby was a rocky seaside beach, he said, "where crowds of people in the prime of life assemble during every season of the year." "I thought before we started digging that Cleopatra would be buried facing the palace in Alexandria, in the royal tombs area," said Hawass. But in time, Martinez's reasoning per- suaded him another theory might be worth ex- ploring: that Cleopatra had been clever enough to make sure she and Antony were secretly bur- ied where no one would disturb their eternal life together. A child prodigy who'd earned her law degree at the age of 19, Kathleen Martinez was teach- ing archaeology at the University of Santo Do- mingo, but it was an avocation; she'd never been to Egypt or handled a trowel. She traced her obsession with Cleopatra to an argument she'd had with her father in 1990, when she was 24 years old. She wandered into his library one day looking for a copy of Shakespeare's Antony and Chip Brown reported in April 2009 on the identi- cation of a mummy believed to be Hatshepsut, an Egyptian queen who ruled as a king. 332 B.C. Alexan- der the Great conquers Egypt. 323 B.C. Alexander dies; control of Egypt passes to Ptolemy, one of Alexander's generals. 304 B.C. Ptolemy I assumes the Egyptian throne as pharaoh. 69 B.C. Cleopatra VII is born.