CAIRO: More than 2,000 years after her death, Cleopatra — the enigmatic queen of the pharaohs — is creating a riddle for archaeologists desperate to find her tomb.
Conflicting reports and news stories on the undiscovered burial crypt are making the search for the elusive tomb increasingly confusing.
Foreign media claim the recent uncovering of two mummies in Egypt will help in the hunt for the tomb, a puzzle that continues to elude archaeologists.
The UK newspaper The Guardian reported that two mummies of high-ranking individuals who lived during the same period as Cleopatra were found 30 km from Alexandria, the Egyptian city overlooking the Mediterranean.
The newspaper said that although the burial chamber was hidden for 2,000 years, the mummies were in poor condition due to water leaks.
However, a source in the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities said that the discovery reported by The Guardian is not new and happened several years ago.
Evidence revealed that the mummies were originally completely covered in gold leaf, a luxury granted only to those from the highest class of society.
Archaeologists say the two may have known Cleopatra herself.
Many Egyptologists believe that Cleopatra’s tomb is located in Alexandria, where she was born and ruled from her royal palace.
The city was destroyed in A.D. 365. Experts believe the last remnants of the tomb could be about 50 km away in the ancient temple of Taposiris Magna, built by the Ptolemies, the Greek rulers of ancient Egypt, in the Nile delta.
The temple is said to contain hidden paths and tombs. Cleopatra’s tomb is thought to be located there, decorated with gold leaf. Researchers say the tomb will answer 2,000-year-old questions surrounding her death.
A source in the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities said that the discovery reported by The Guardian is not new and happened several years ago.
However, Salwa Hussein, a professor of Greek and Roman antiquities at Tanta University, said that there is no scientific evidence of her burial in the region.
Cleopatra was no ordinary person, and her tomb must be in a more important and visible place, he added.
“She was the last queen of Egypt and one of the most famous rulers in history. She married the Roman emperor Julius Caesar and fell in love with his minister, Antonio. The queen committed suicide with Antonio in 53 B.C. after the Roman leader Octavian captured her in Alexandria,” Hussein said.
According to the legend, Cleopatra directed servants to smuggle snakes into her cell, which poisoned and killed her.
Zahi Hawass, an Egyptian archaeologist and former minister of state for antiquities affairs, hopes there are further attempts to locate the tomb.
“We have only discovered 30 percent of Egyptian antiquities. The rest have not yet been discovered. We are very close to finding the right location for the tomb. We hope we are on the right track,” he said.
Hawass said he believed Cleopatra and Antonio were buried in the same grave.
However, a number of Egyptian archaeologists disagree.
According to the book “Alexandria ... the Library and the Academy in the Ancient World” by Mohamed Abdel-Moneim Amer, Cleopatra’s tomb was not far from the tomb of Alexander the Great.
Alexander’s tomb in Alexandria, said to be made of gold, was taken by Ptolemy XI in 101 B.C. and replaced with a glass sarcophagus.
Amer said that Cleopatra lived in an era of droughts, as evidenced by valuables found in the tombs of her family.
Archaeologist Alaa El-Shahat said that Cleopatra’s tomb, as well as the rest of the tombs of the Ptolemaic kings, are located in the royal district in the middle of modern-day Alexandria.
The district was home of royal palaces and theaters, such as Kom Al-Dikka, the Roman theater.
El-Shahat said it was possible that the tomb is located in a central neighborhood.