Full EpisodeCleopatra’s Lost Tomb

Join Kathleen Martinez, criminal lawyer turned maverick archaeologist, as she searches for Cleopatra’s lost tomb. Very little evidence remains of Egypt’s last queen, but a radical new theory has led Kathleen to look where no one else has dared — and her hunch is paying off as she stuns the archaeological establishment with her discoveries of incredible artifacts, a network of mysterious tunnels, and even a vast city of the dead dated to the time of the Queen and her Ptolemaic dynasty. Now Kathleen has made her biggest breakthrough so far: a 35-meter deep underground shaft that, according to the experts, has all the hallmarks of a royal burial shaft. Could Kathleen be closing in on Cleopatra’s final resting place?

Credits Print

NARRATED BY
JAY O. SANDERS

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
PAUL OLDING

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CRISPIN GREEN

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Transcript Print

Narration
Egypt. Of all its kings and queens, one still remains cloaked in mystery... its last queen – Cleopatra.

Narration
For centuries archaeologists have searched for clues about this powerful leader’s life, yet evidence of the queen has all but vanished from history.

Narration
But that’s about to change….
Out in the Egyptian desert, archaeologist Kathleen Martinez has found a long lost temple dating to Cleopatra’s reign.

Kathleen Martinez -
I look around where all the archaeologists have excavated, and I immediately knew they were searching in wrong places.

Narration
She’s uncovered stunning artifacts, mysterious tunnels and even a vast city of the dead. Kathleen is starting to transform our understanding of this enigmatic queen.

Kathleen Martinez -
She was a mother she was a wife, she was a queen, she was a goddess.

Narration
This amateur sleuth from the Dominican Republic has battled on in the face of skepticism from the archaeological community.

Kathleen Martinez -
They were not supportive, they believe it was a crazy idea.

Narration
With the discovery of a network of underground chambers, she believes she might have found the final resting place...of Cleopatra herself.

Kathleen Martinez
I will never stop until I find the tomb of Cleopatra.

Title Card
Cleopatra’s Lost Tomb

Narration
Kathleen Martinez is a criminal lawyer from the Dominican Republic. But over the last 20 years, she’s used her experience in the courtroom to become an archaeological sleuth.

She’s searching for the lost tomb of Cleopatra....

Kathleen Martinez -
I don’t think 100% as an archaeologist, because my first training is as a criminal lawyer, so I took Cleopatra as a case.

Narration
Kathleen’s obsession with the last queen of Egypt began when she read Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra.

She believes there’s much more to the queen’s life and death than the legend suggests...and she believes she knows where Cleopatra’s tomb lies hidden.

Narration
Kathleen’s quest took her to Alexandria in north Egypt……

It’s here in Cleopatra’s capital city that most archaeologists believe the queen was buried.

Narration
But more than 1,000 years ago, the ancient city was hit by a tidal wave and lost beneath the water. The experts believe, so too was the tomb of Cleopatra.

Narration
But Kathleen has other ideas. She doesn’t believe the queen was buried in the city at all.

Narration
Defeated by the Romans at the battle of Actium, Cleopatra famously committed suicide.

Kathleen has a theory that the queen planned for her body to be taken out of Alexandria, and buried in a sacred temple.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
When I study carefully the last days of Cleopatra, I realized it was the beginning of a religious act that ended up with her being buried in a temple…and her lost tomb could be found there.

Narration
Studying ancient Roman texts, Kathleen investigated 21 temple sites where Cleopatra could be buried. But only one fit with her theory.

25 miles west of Alexandria lies a ruined temple complex known as Taposiris Magna.

Narration
Kathleen suspects this ancient pile of rubble dates from the time of Cleopatra’s royal line.

Narration
Even though the site is in ruins, its sheer scale and its proximity to Cleopatra’s capital city suggests to Kathleen that the queen chose this site to be her final resting place.

Narration
But over the last century, several archaeological teams have searched here and found very little.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
This is not a site that would have peaked the interest of the archaeological community particularly, it didn’t present any features which captured anybody’s imagination.

Narration
But could Kathleen’s hunch be true? Could this be the site of Cleopatra’s lost tomb?

Kathleen Martinez -
My first reaction when I entered the temple was to laugh, because I knew I was in the right place.

Narration
The great walls that surround the site are different from other ancient Egyptian temples in one important way: there are no inscriptions.

There’s nothing to link the site to any specific time or dynasty in Egyptian history.
Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist The most accepted idea about this temple it was never finished, all the scholars believe it never functioned as a temple, and I believe they were wrong.

Narration
Experts had written off Taposiris Magna as unfinished and unimportant. But Kathleen is determined to prove it’s more than just an ancient building site.

Narration
She applies to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities for permission to dig at the site.

Narration
They’re intrigued by her ideas, but given her unconventional background, Kathleen is only given two months by the authorities to prove her theory.

Paying for the excavation out of her own pocket, Kathleen assembles a team of Egyptians and local tribesmen.

Kathleen Martinez -
Nobody ever came to this site, with a clear idea of what they were searching for.

Narration
But the archaeological community is skeptical.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
I think Kathleen’s ideas come across as very sensationalist, in the absence of anything really scientific there was a lot of skepticism about her work.

Narration
Whatever the academics think, Kathleen is confident in her theory.

Kathleen Martinez -
And if we remove this block...

Narration
If she could find the lost tomb of Cleopatra, there’s no telling what secrets would be revealed about the queen’s life and eventual death.

Kathleen Martinez -
What people know about Cleopatra is what we have seen in the movies and this information is only what the Romans wrote about her, and it was a propaganda.

Movie Upsync
You are a goddess Cleopatra. Everything is permitted to a goddess

Narration
Two thousand years after her death, the legend of Cleopatra still fascinates us.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
Cleopatra is a pivotal figure in Egyptian history.
She comes from a background of the most turbulent, dramatic soap operatic royal family, there’s ever been.

Dr. Joyce Tydesley –
Her story seems to have absolutely everything, it’s got sex, it’s got wealth, it’s got power.

Narration
She was the lover of Julius Caesar...and Mark Antony…
And at one time she was the richest woman in the world.

Dr. Dorothy Thompson –
Cleopatra got what she needed Cleopatra got what she wanted

Narration
But following defeat at the hands of the Roman Empire, she ended her life.

Narration
And one mystery remains unsolved: Where was she buried?

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
The truth is we don’t exactly know what happened, either around the time of her death or what happened to her body afterwards.

Narration
Barely any traces of Cleopatra or her reign survive today.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
Victors write history, and that means that a lot of Cleopatra’s been swept away – and that leaves us with a lot of questions unanswered, and it leaves us with something of an enigma.

Narration
Back at Taposiris Magna, Kathleen Martinez was given just eight weeks to find any proof that Cleopatra could be buried at the site.

With her permit about to expire, she’s found nothing of interest. It looks like she’s going to fail, just like all the archaeologists before her.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
Everybody here at the site were disappointed we didn’t find anything we didn’t even find pottery or nothing.

Narration
On the very last day, Kathleen spreads her team across the site.

Not far from the north door, she stumbles on a curious depression in the ground.

Kathleen Martinez -
We start cleaning, and then suddenly a small hole opened and we start removing the sand, and we found it was a shaft….

Kathleen Martinez -
It has holes to go down, like in ancient times, they never use a ladder.

Kathleen Martinez -
It opens in two chambers one going north and the other south.

Narration
This is an astonishing discovery. The shaft descends 16 feet below ground level, leading to two carved chambers.

But what were they for?

Kathleen Martinez -
You can see traces of color. It was painted.

Narration
It’s possible this could be a cistern for storing water. But why would it be painted?

Narration
None of the previous archaeologists who had excavated the site came across underground chambers like these.

It’s enough to convince the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities to extend Kathleen’s permit…

Kathleen Martinez -
It was the happiest day of my life. Because of this shaft we continue our search for Cleopatra.

Narration
Kathleen has found more beneath Taposiris Magna than anyone imagined. It keeps alive her hope that the temple could be the last resting place of Cleopatra.

Narration
For Kathleen, her research has revealed that Cleopatra is much more than the Hollywood seductress of legend.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
She was a musician, she study medicine, she wrote about law, there’s so many qualities and she did so much in a time where women were so restricted.

Narration
Kathleen is searching for concrete facts about Cleopatra and is transforming our understanding of the enigmatic queen.

Narration
While Roman poets describe Cleopatra as a sinful whore, medieval Arab writers portray her in a very different light as a philosopher, scientist and astute political leader.

Narration
At the new Library in Alexandria, curator Walaa Temraz has found references to the queen in ancient Arab texts.

Narration
One writer was a 9th century poet named Al Masoudi.

Walaa Temraz –
Here in this chapter he talked about Cleopatra and he mentioned that she wrote several books about medicine, and other fields of science.

Actuality (Reading Arabic)

Walaa Temraz –
We barely find a mention in the Arabic sources she was a seducer or something like that – we only find mentions of her either as a ruler – or a great monarch who protected Egypt.

Narration
It’s a view that’s gained ground among historians in recent years: Kathleen is not the only person on Cleopatra’s trail.

Dr. Dorothy Thompson studies ancient papyrus and is finding new insights about the queen from rare written accounts.

Dr. Dorothy Thompson –
My interest is in the queen actually in Egypt, not the queen who’s constructed for us by others, not the mirage of the queen but the queen we can tell from the texts.

Narration
In the Berlin Museum, fragile scraps of 2000-year-old papyrus give a glimpse of the political control Cleopatra wielded during her reign.

Dr. Dorothy Thompson –
This dates from 50 B.C, it’s from within a year and a half of her coming to the throne, and it says at the top the queen – Basiliais, that’s Cleopatra made this Royal order – prostaxsantone.

Dr. Dorothy Thompson –
Cleopatra is concerned that the people of the capital city should have enough to eat.

Narration
An astute leader, Cleopatra made the proclamation when Egypt was under severe threat of famine. She was well aware that hunger could lead to dangerous unrest.

Dr. Dorothy Thompson –
She’s making a decree saying that no one who purchases corn may take it either to the north or to the south, everybody must bring it to the capital city….and anyone who disobeys this is to be punished by death.

Narration
This is Cleopatra far removed from the Hollywood glitz and glamour.

Dr. Dorothy Thompson –
This is a real politician, somebody who’s aware of problems and prepared to do something about them.

Dr. Dorothy Thompson –
This isn’t Cleopatra the seductress, this is Cleopatra the working queen.

Narration
Cleopatra’s influence extended far beyond the borders of Egypt. It was during her reign that Egypt and Rome were both enemies... and bed fellows.

Narration
In 48 BC, just three years after Cleopatra came to the throne, Julius Caesar conquered Egypt. But rather than surrender, the Queen sought an audience with the great general.

Narration
Cleopatra would prove to be a clever and talented politician, able to forge strong political alliances...even with her enemies.

Dr. Darius Arya
When we think about the relationship between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra on the one hand we talk about seduction, and then on the other hand we talk about political maneuvering we can actually have both.

Dr. Darius Arya
Rome is the biggest power in the Mediterranean Egypt needs someone like that to ensure that its power remains, and at the same time Julius Caesar wants to have Egypt in its back pocket, because it’s the bread basket of the Mediterranean.

Narration
The alliance soon became a love affair, and Cleopatra bore Caesar a son.

Narration
He brought her to Rome and showered her with gifts, even building a temple in her honor.

Dr. Darius Arya
Julius Caesar is rebuilding Rome and he builds his own Roman forum the forum Julium attached the great Roman forum, and in it he has his own temple and inside that temple he places a statue of Cleopatra.

Dr. Darius Arya
It’s a really bold move to place a statue of your foreign queen, lover, mistress, inside your brand new temple. This is someone that has a special privileged position, with Julius Caesar the ruler of the Roman empire.
Narration Cleopatra’s influence on Caesar upset many in the Roman senate.

Narration
But the queen had something to give in return: a wealth of scientific knowledge. She offered her lover the secrets of time.

Narration
In Caesar’s day, the Roman calendar was based on the phases of the moon.

Narration
The 28-day lunar cycle meant the months and seasons drifted each year.

Dr. Darius Arya
You didn’t have the fixed number of days per year…..

Sometimes the whole system can get out of whack

Narration
But Cleopatra came from seat of great learning and knowledge. The Egyptian calendar was based on the earth’s orbit around the sun.

Dr. Darius Arya - Archaeologist American Institute for Roman Culture
By adopting the practices of the astronomers of Cleopatra in Egypt –Julius Caser finally had a system based upon the movement of the sun, it gave Romans stability – 365 days a year – every 4th year there’s a leap year– this is the modern calendar cycle – Julius Caesar brought it to Rome – the Empire and the world.

Narration
Sadly in 44BC, Cleopatra’s alliance with the Roman general came to an abrupt end...with his murder.

Narration
Cleopatra fled back to Egypt.

Narration
Perhaps she found solace in the temple at Taposiris Magna. Kathleen Martinez thinks so.

Narration
In fact Kathleen believes Cleopatra felt such a strong connection to the temple that years after her suicide, Kathleen theorizes her body was brought here from Alexandria to be buried.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
I think if Kathleen Martinez were to find the tomb of Cleopatra intact... then it would be a discovery on a par with Howard Carter’s discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen.

Narration
As she continues her search, Kathleen turns her attention to the ruins of a building unearthed by a previous team of archaeologists.

Narration
It’s thought this was a temple dedicated to the God Osiris, the god of the dead, the source of the temple’s name—TapOsiris Magna.

Narration
But just who built it remains a mystery.

Narration
There’s very little left of the building, but just beneath the surface, Kathleen makes a major breakthrough…

Narration
She discovers a set of rare and fragile tablets.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
Well this is the magical moment…. You have to be very careful. They are made of clay and semi-precious stones, like lapis lazuli, turquoise, and glass.

Narration
These stunning artifacts are known as foundation deposits.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
It’s incredibly important if you can to find that foundation deposit, because that’s what gives you your information about when the temple was first built.

Narration
The writing is barely legible but Kathleen can just make it out.

Kathleen Martinez -
We can see the inscriptions are not clear, they are written in Greek and it refers to ‘Basileosus, Ptolomios’ which means king Ptolemy.

Narration
The text reveals the foundation deposits were laid around 2200 years ago by Ptolemy IV, Cleopatra’s great-great-great-grandfather.

Narration It’s the first direct link between the temple site and Cleopatra’s family line.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist What is important about the foundation deposit, it was – touch by the Pharaoh himself, and it was dedicated to the sun rah, and then it was hidden by the Pharaoh, and then coverage by big blocks.

Narration Kathleen’s find stunned the archaeology world and strengthened her hunch that the temple was used by Cleopatra herself.

Kathleen Martinez - We were already proving with archaeological evidence that everything that was written about this temple was wrong!

Narration Dating the Osiris Temple was just the start. Extending her excavation north, Kathleen makes another important breakthrough.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
I continue in this direction and I found this block.
We continued cleaning and we found the remains of a wall and then we opened to the north and we found the sides of the building and it had a door.

Narration
Kathleen finds a second building! And she believes this one has all the hallmarks of the cult of the Goddess Isis.

Narration
Isis Temples are known to have three separate rooms, with one acting as a holy sanctuary. Kathleen thinks she’s found a good match.

Narration
Isis was wife to the God Osiris. She was Egypt’s most potent mother goddess. In her lifetime, Cleopatra had a close link to Isis. She would often portray herself as the earthly embodiment of the goddess.

Dr. Joyce Tydesley –
Isis was a really important goddess to the Egyptians……she seemed to really resonate with ordinary people

Dr. Joyce Tydesley –
So for Cleopatra to ally herself with this goddess to the point of declaring herself to be the living Isis was a really important matter, and I think it was something that she took really seriously.

Dr. Dorothy Thompson –
To present herself as Isis, is clearly a very canny move it’s an obvious thing for somebody who wishes to be accepted by her people.

Narration
Finding the Isis temple was a tantalizing link to Cleopatra. Kathleen unearths what she thinks is a holy shrine...and hits the jackpot.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
We clean it inside and inside the shrine it has around 200 coins, some of them were in very good condition… and we could see immediately, it has Cleopatra’s face

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
You cannot imagine the happiness, when I discovered inside the sanctuary of Isis, the face of Cleopatra in a coin, it was beautiful Cleopatra.

Narration
At last, Kathleen comes face to face with her heroine.

This is a major find, the coins match other known coins from Cleopatra’s reign.

Their discovery suggests the temple was in active use from the time of the queen’s rule.

Kathleen Martinez
We believe the coins were there as offering to the goddess Isis.

Narration
Bronze coins like the ones Kathleen found reveal a manipulative queen, keenly aware of the power of brand management.

Prof. Andrew Meadows -
Coins are useful in understanding history because, they tell us things about what people wanted to say about themselves

Narration
Cleopatra’s ancestors only put their faces on high value silver coins used by the rich. But Cleopatra wanted her face seen and adored by all her subjects.

Prof. Andrew Meadows -
What Cleopatra did that was new was introduce her own portrait onto this bronze low value coinage, and that’s an important step, because it made sure that her image reached a much broader public, anybody conducing a day to day transaction with a coin like this would be confronted with Cleopatra’s image.

Narration
Rich or poor, Cleopatra wanted her whole country to know who was in charge.

Narration
Later in her reign, while Cleopatra was living with her new lover Marc Antony, she even started producing Roman coins.

Prof. Andrew Meadows -
This is a Roman Denarius, what marks this out as really unusual, is that it bares portraits on both sides of it.

Narration
Cleopatra is on one side of the coin, and Marc Antony on the other.

To have a foreign queen on a Roman coin was unheard of.

But what’s even more intriguing is who’s on top…The curvature of the coin suggests that Cleopatra occupies the ‘heads’ side, with her Roman lover demoted to ‘tails.

Prof. Andrew Meadows -
It seems that on these coins Cleopatra occupies that dominant position.

Narration
Cleopatra’s involvement with Rome was a complex affair. During the time she was lover to Mark Antony, she was despised by many in the Roman Senate. But this didn’t stop her from using her political wiles to keep building alliances.

Narration
At the Berlin museum, historian Dr. Dorothy Thompson uncovers a second papyrus. It shows Cleopatra trying to gain allies...in Rome.

Dr. Dorothy Thompson –
It’s an agreement by the queen, that a Roman and this is the real interest of the text, that a Roman is being given very significant tax concessions.

Dr. Dorothy Thompson –
She’s allowing him to export a whole barge load of corn, and to import 5 thousand jars full of wine, and he’s able to do this without paying any taxes.

Narration
At the end of the decree, Dorothy notices something intriguing.

Dr. Dorothy Thompson –
Right down at the bottom of the text is the one word ‘Ginestho’, in English that means so be it let it happen, Cleopatra’s seal of approval for the decree that’s recorded above.

Narration
This word is written differently from the rest of the document. And it’s prompted speculation as to who might have written it...

Dr. Dorothy Thompson –
The exciting question is, is this Cleopatra’s own hand that’s used here, it would be nice wouldn’t it if she’d written that but we can’t really be sure.

Narration
Back at Taposiris Magna, Kathleen is spurred on by her discovery of the Isis Temple and the coins bearing Cleopatra’s face. She continues her search for Cleopatra’s lost tomb.

Narration
Poking around just outside the temple enclosure, Kathleen notices a strange indentation in the ground. She soon realizes these could be tunnels.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
So we start cleaning it and realize it went down 25 meters, I’ve been searching for shaft tunnels passages, underground and chambers so this was a big hope for us that this could be what we were looking for.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
Who would like to go inside the shaft with me
Ha ha…

Are you ready to risk your life for Cleopatra?

Narration
Kathleen has already excavated tons of rubble, sand and rock out of the shaft. Today she’s extending her dig.

Kathleen Martinez -
Yalla, Yalla

Narration
At the bottom, she’s uncovers two secret passageways. She hopes that one might lead to a hidden tomb.

Kathleen Martinez
Ok so, we first go in this direction to the North and then we go in this direction.

Narration
These passageways are also blocked. Kathleen wonders if someone was trying to conceal something.

Narration
80 feet below ground level, the tunnel is chiseled out of the bedrock.

And along the passageway, Kathleen finds more vertical shafts leading back to the surface.

Kathleen Martinez -
Can I have the light here?

Kathleen Martinez -
You see it has, you see the steps going down in the side?

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
Why they make several entrance? Why? Because as much entrance as they made it’s less safe because anybody can find or discover the entrance.

Narration
The tunnels appear to run north to south, parallel to the temple. Kathleen considers the possibility they were part of a sophisticated water transport system. But there is very little evidence of any plaster to seal the walls or any erosion.

Kathleen Martinez
This is where we’re stuck, from these big block.

Narration
In among the remaining debris still blocking the tunnels, she stumbles on more clues.

Kathleen Martinez
Look…….. It’s part of the temple.

Narration
Was the temple destroyed at some point and the rubble dumped underground?

Narration
Returning to the surface, Kathleen quickly inspects her finds.

Kathleen Martinez
We found marble that belongs to Isis Chapel and the pottery will help us to date exactly when the tunnels were refilled.

Narration
Even more exciting, Kathleen and her team also recover some human remains.

Kathleen Martinez
We found, skulls, a skeleton.

Narration
Who do these bones belong to?

Is it possible they were temple priests who met a grisly end, perhaps protecting the tomb of their queen?

Narration
The discovery of a network of tunnels and chambers reinforces Kathleen’s hunch ... Cleopatra’s tomb could be hidden underground.

Narration
Cleopatra’s final days are shrouded in mystery.

Dr. Joyce Tydesley –
We don’t have a clear account of what happened when Cleopatra died because nobody at the time wrote it down.

Narration
We know that in 31 BC, the Roman empire was in the midst of a civil war. With Cleopatra by his side, Marc Antony faced Roman general Octavian at the Battle of Actium...and was defeated.

Fleeing to Egypt, Antony fell on his sword. Stricken by grief, Cleopatra too took matters into her own hands.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
In the classic telling of the story, she then committed suicide by clasping a poisonous snake an Asp to her bosom.

Narration
But what happened next remains unclear.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
We simply don’t know what happened to Cleopatra’s body, the events around her death, are quite confused and conflicting, and they don’t really give us any clear pointers as to where she was buried.

Dr. Joyce Tydesley –
All we can do is keep looking and piecing together little clues from the evidence we have.

Narration
Digging in the ruins of Taposiris Magna, Kathleen Martinez is unearthing dozens of stunning artifacts. All date from the time of Cleopatra’s royal line.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
This is one of my favorite artefacts ... the bust of this Ptolemite queen.

This is a liner to do the makeup in the eyes. It was easy for me to recognize when I saw it.

Here you can see it’s a weight. they were selling something

This is the bust of Alexander the great

This is a penis belong to Egyptian god, of fertility.

Narration
Just to the south of the Osiris Temple, Kathleen discovers a square-shaped sunken structure. She thinks it held water and was used in a ritual purification process.

Kathleen Martinez
What happened here, the priest before they go to worship Osiris, they need to take a bath to clean themselves and they go to the temple.

Narration
The artefacts and temple structures create a picture for Kathleen of an important temple site...one that was active during the time of Cleopatra.

Narration
Digging down near the north door of the complex, Kathleen makes another surprising discovery.

Beneath ten feet of earth and sand, she uncovers a row of 14 curiously shaped stone plinths.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
What is important about this is that all of them has a different geometrical shape this is unique.

Since so far we have uncover 14 bases, so maybe it could be related to the Ptolemaists itself because they were 14 who rules Egypt.

Narration
Cleopatra came from the Ptolemy family line.

Narration
And at the base of one of the plinths, Kathleen discovers a statue carved in the style of a Ptolemy Pharaoh. She believes this was a grand avenue leading to the temple.

Narration
Kathleen starts to attract global interest in her quest for the lost tomb.

Archive – News item montage

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
An archaeologist in Egypt claimed today to be on the verge of finding the burial place of Cleopatra…

Archaeologist Kathleen Martinez says the old theory doesn’t make sense…

Artefacts found in an ancient temple near Alexandria…

(KATHLEEN MARTINEZ)
She could not use the same cemetery she need a special place

...And this could be that special place.

Narration
Kathleen’s hunch that Cleopatra is buried at the Temple site is about to get a significant boost.

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Digging in the rubble just behind the plinths, Kathleen stumbles upon something that shocks the archaeological community...A large inscribed limestone tablet called a ‘stela’.

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Like the world-famous Rosetta Stone, the inscription appears in both hieroglyphics and demotic script, the everyday written language of ancient Egypt.

Kathleen Martinez
Can you believe that this piece of block has changed the history of Taposiris Magna, I already name Stela Magna.

Narration
The stela dates from 196 BC, seven years into the reign of Ptolemy V, pre-dating the Rosetta stone by two years.

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Translating the hieroglyphics reveals a decree written by the Pharaoh that the temple was dedicated to the worship of the goddess Isis.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
The decree by Ptolemy the 5th , is the declaration of Taposiris Magna as a religious center for Isis, for worshiping Isis and the land it was considered sacred land, and everything around the temple, was used to worship Isis.

Narration
Cleopatra portrayed herself as the earthly embodiment of Isis. It is as queen and goddess that she was revered by her people.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
This is an important text, it shows us that this is a temple which is very much part of the royal institution at that time very much an important place so this is not a temple which is a backwater this is an important spot.

Narration
The stela that Kathleen found has rewritten history. It reveals that Taposiris Magna, dedicated to Isis, was the most important Ptolemaic temple in northern Egypt.

Kathleen Martinez
It’s so important for the Ptolemies that was the most important center of adoration of Isis in the north.

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With Taposiris Magna so close to Cleopatra’s Alexandria power base, and with such a profound link to the goddess Isis, the evidence is mounting that Cleopatra herself could have been a frequent visitor. But is she buried here?

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Kathleen decides to cast her net wider.

A stone’s throw from the temple is an ancient monument.

It’s a copy of the famous Alexandria lighthouse.

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Here, she spots odd sunken areas in the desert floor.

Kathleen Martinez
Well we start excavating here, close between the light house and the temple, and we uncovered the first steps.

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At the bottom of the steps, she discovers a set of chambers cut deep into the bedrock… burial chambers.

Kathleen Martinez
We need to check these blocks but please wear your mask before we go down.

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Kathleen is worried that bacteria from any dead bodies could be dangerous.

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The rock-cut tombs yield the first evidence of ritual burials, all within sight of the temple complex.

Further excavation slowly reveals a labyrinth of ancient catacombs. Many contain skeletons – others, mummies.

Kathleen Martinez
We didn’t know how big it was but now we have more than 800 skeletons.

Narration
Kathleen has unearthed a huge necropolis, an ancient Egyptian ‘City of the Dead’. It covers hundreds of square yards.

Kathleen Martinez
This can be the equivalent of the valley of the kings for the Ptolemies

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But who is buried here?

After years of skepticism, the archaeological world is now paying attention.

Dr. Salima Ikram -
Well, this looks fantastic.

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Dr. Salima Ikram is an expert in Ancient Egyptian burials.

Dr. Salima Ikram -
Oh my God look at that they’re fabulous.

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Some of the mummies’ skulls appear to be encrusted in gold.

Dr. Salima Ikram -
Here you’ve got all this gilding on them, what you do is you coat the face with this sort of oil, resin mixture sometimes even with bees wax, and that gives you a very tacky substance, and then you have these small squares of gold leaf that you can just attach and sometimes they overlap.

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These were clearly wealthy people. But there’s more than meets the eye to these blackened mummies with their gold-covered skulls.

Dr. Salima Ikram -
During the later Ptolemaic and early roman period we notice that mummification is not so well done, either the body is not properly desiccated, and then its wrapped up – there is a kind of internal combustion – and so that’s when you wind up with these blackened bodies.

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To make up for their apparent lack of skill with the mummification process, the priests appear to have over-compensated with additional decoration.

Dr. Salima Ikram -
So lots of oils and unguents are poured over the body you have fancy wrapping, you have glittery you know gold and this and that to make up for the fact you’re not quite sure as to what you’re supposed to do.

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Clues drawn from the site suggest to Salima the burials date directly from the time of Cleopatra.

Dr. Salima Ikram -
It’s a wonderful Necropolis it’s really fabulous, late Ptolemaic, early Roman Necropolis, which is still filled with all kinds of goodies and bodies to be found.

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Salima believes the necropolis would have been an important burial site and one in active use during Cleopatra’s time.

Dr. Salima Ikram -
It’s a holy place, it’s a sacred place it’s a significant place so people wanted to be buried here so that they could get the sort of good vibes, you would have the Gods blessing in the god Osiris, and the goddess Isis were here of course he’s a funerary deities par excellence, so anyone who is buried here was definitely having a straight shot to eternity.

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The presence of such an elaborate necropolis so close to the temple suggests to Kathleen that she’s closing in on her ultimate goal: the tomb of Cleopatra herself.

Kathleen Martinez
These people knew about this important person was buried and wanted to be close to them.

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In ancient Egypt, kings, queens and nobility have been found buried in pyramids and in valleys full of rock-cut tombs. But they’re also known to have been buried beneath temple sites.

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540 miles south of Alexandria lies the ancient city of Luxor with the famous Ramesseum temple.

This temple was originally built in 1275 BC by Ramesses the 2nd but it was still in use centuries later.

In 2014, a shaft was discovered leading to an underground tomb.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
This sensational discovery was, of a Princess, Karomama, who was an extremely high ranking priestess.

Narration
Karomama’s secret underground tomb dates to 900 years before the death of Cleopatra. Might Cleopatra have revived an ancient royal tradition to be buried beneath Taposiris Magna?

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
It’s very possible Cleopatra could have been buried in a similar shaft underneath a temple, there are actually quite a lot of examples of high status royal even, individual’s royal women in particular being buried in shaft tombs within temple complexes.

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At Taposiris Magna, Kathleen has already found a number of shafts and underground chambers. And she’s still finding more.

Kathleen Martinez
I will go down.

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In a wide chamber by the west door, she discovers the body of a woman.

Kathleen Martinez -
We found the skeleton of this woman carrying a baby.

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The bones reveal the pregnant woman is too young to be Cleopatra. But the discovery raises many questions.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
We can see she was married she had this ring in her hand, and an amulet in her ankle, this woman is still a puzzle for us because we don’t know what happened with her.

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Whoever she was, the skeleton is a clue that Kathleen is on the right track. It’s the first indication that burials had taken place inside the temple.

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Kathleen’s hunt for Cleopatra’s lost tomb continues.

In the northwest corner of the enclosure, Kathleen discovers a set of steps. They lead down to a wide cavity.

Kathleen Martinez
We start cleaning around, but it’s 10 meters by 10 meters by 9 meters it was very deep.

Kathleen Martinez
And it was a big ‘cut like the tombs of the valley of the kings so we thought, we were thrilled, this is it!

Narration
But there are more surprises: She uncovers a second opening…..

Excavations in the hole reveal a vertical shaft cut into the bedrock nearly 100 foot deep….

…and more human remains.

Kathleen Martinez - Archaeologist
We start cleaning the shaft and at the depth of 23 meters, we found two skeletons, and that make us still more excited because we thought what if those men were sealing the tomb.

Narration
Such a deep vertical shaft in combination with a huge subterranean chamber usually means one thing.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
The most striking feature of this shaft is just its massive size, it’s a huge opening, cut into the bedrock, you don’t see those very often, when you do see them, they are the shafts that lead to tombs, to burial chambers, to bodies.

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As a last ditch attempt to see even deeper beneath the temple, Kathleen decides to bring in some scientific help.

She’s using the latest in Ground Penetrating Radar - to probe the ground around the deep shaft, hoping to reveal any concealed chambers.

Dr. Mohamed Gamal
We’re trying to use geophysical methods, to help the people who are working in the archaeology, to find where is the mummy of Cleopatra.

Narration
The results are encouraging.

Kathleen Martinez
The GPR reveal important cavities big enough to be the final resting place of a pharaoh.

Dr. Mohamed Gamal
I can confirm to you something that somebody is hiding something…

What is it we don’t know! Maybe it’s the mummy of Cleopatra maybe.

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Kathleen has found tunnels, shafts and underground rooms hidden beneath the temple at Taposiris Magna... with more concealed chambers still to investigate.

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But for this year, the dig has ended. Just as Howard Carter followed tantalizing clues for six seasons until he found King Tut…Kathleen now feels her goal is within her grasp.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
I think Kathleen has taken us closer to finding the tomb of Cleopatra than we’ve ever been before.

Kathleen Martinez -
It’s the beginning of a journey that will end with a big discovery.

Narration
She’s proved the site is one of the most important temples of the Ptolemaic dynasty… And found compelling evidence there is a burial chamber concealed deep underground.

Dr. Christopher Naunton –
I think if Kathleen found the tomb of Cleopatra intact she would be elevated to the status of the most famous archaeologist in the world.

Kathleen Martinez -
I feel connected with her in a way that the experience that I lived searching for her give me strength to continue.

Kathleen Martinez -
I feel in my heart the tomb of Cleopatra is under my feet at Taposiris Magna.