Headless Egypt king statue could give clues to Cleopatra’s tomb

Friday, November 19, 2010

WASHINGTON - A headless statue of a Greek king has been discovered in the ruins of an ancient Egyptian temple, adding to evidence that the structure could be the final resting place of Marc Antony and Cleopatra, say excavation leaders.

For the past five years, archaeologists have been searching around the temple of Taposiris Magna, about 45 kilometres west of the port city of Alexandria in hopes of finding the couple’s graves.

The newfound black granite statue-which stands about 6 feet (1.8 meters) without its head-is thought to be of King Ptolemy IV, because an unattached cartouche carved of the same type of stone and bearing his name was found near the figure’s base.

Ptolemy IV was one of several Greek royals who ruled Egypt during the Ptolemaic period, from 332 to 30 B.C.

In addition to the headless statue, the Egyptian-Dominican dig team found an inscription, written in Greek and hieroglyphics, in the foundation deposits of one of the temple’s corners.

“If you are arguing for it to be a burial place for Cleopatra, then the later it is built, the more chance we have to have connections with her-the greater the possibility it was still active during her lifetime,” National Geographic News quoted Salima Ikram of the American University in Cairo, as saying.

During the latest digs, the archaeological team also found a row of 6.5-foot-tall (about 2-meter-tall) bases for sphinxes outside the temple’s north entrance, where the granite statue was found.

Archaeologists have known of Taposiris Magna for centuries, with the first excavations started at the temple under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801.

The recent digs have made the temple look much more active, increasing the likelihood that it was an important site in Cleopatra’s day.

So far, the temple’s cemetery has been found to contain at least 12 mummies, 500 skeletons, and 20 tombs.

“Cleopatra could [represent] Isis and Marc Antony could be Osiris,” said Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), who is supervising the digs.

And in 2008 the team unearthed an alabaster bust of Cleopatra, coins bearing her image, and a bronze statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, among other artefacts.

“After excavations, we have uncovered what belongs to this temple, to this huge complex, proving it really was one of the most sacred temples in Alexandria” during the Ptolemaic period, said archaeologist and dig leader Kathleen Martinez.

“And because of the solemnity of this temple, and it was so sacred at that time, I believe it could have Cleopatra’s tomb,” added Martinez. (ANI)

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