A team of archaeologists from Egypt and the Dominican Republic believe that they are on the verge of locating the burial site of legendary Egyptian Queen Cleopatra and her illustrious Roman consort, Marc Antony. The team, doing excavations near the famous Egyptian port city of Alexandria, uncovered a number of coins, funerary masks and gold-covered mummies indicating they could be close to discovering the site.
Cleopatra and Mark Antony were buried together, after a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Actium in 30 B.C., according to the Roman historian Plutarch. Marc Antony is believed to have committed suicide with his sword and Cleopatra is reputed to have poisoned herself.
Excavation work near the temple of Taposiris Magna has been underway for three years.
The head of Egypt's Council of Antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawas describes what his team and another team from the Dominican Republic have been doing.
"We started our excavation about three years ago," he said. "We found about 22 coins, has the shape of Cleopatra, two statues of Cleopatra, another statue of a king and we found also tunnels in the area that shows that the temple has been used for burial, but the most important discovery that we made this week, [is] that we discovered the big large cemetery. About 20 tombs have been found, cut in the rock, and in one of them, about 10 mummies, some of them were covered with gold."
Kathleen Martinez, who leads an archaeological team from the Dominican Republic participating in the excavations, has found three sites near the Taposiris temple, 50 kilometers west of the ancient port city of Alexandria, where she believes Antony and Cleopatra could be buried.
Hawas says he is excited about the prospects, after years of searching.
"The discovery of the tombs around the temple can show that there is [are] important persons that could be buried inside the temple," he said. "We made a survey to [of] the whole temple by radar, and the radar showed three spots that we are going to excavate, this week, and we hope that we will be able to discover the tomb of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, and this discovery in my opinion will be the most important discovery of the 21st Century."
Dr. Hawas also says that coins, bearing the likeness of Queen Cleopatra, reveal that she was quite a "beauty", contradicting a recent study by a British University team, which contended that she was ugly and had a crooked nose.