A number of media outlets have been making claims about the discovery of Antony and Cleopatra’s tomb during a recent project at Taposiris Magna, Egypt. Unfortunately, it looks like many of these headlines are a bit overstated. The tomb of the infamous lovers has not yet been found – although that could soon change.
Dr Zahi Hawass, an archaeologist and former Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, has confirmed that many of the news stories surrounding the project are false. Speaking to Live Science, he said: "This is completely false information; [there is] nothing found at all about the tomb.”
In actuality, Hawass remarked that the tomb will perhaps be discovered soon thanks to recent excavations at Taposiris Magna led by Kathleen Martinez. “I hope to find the tomb of Antony and Cleopatra soon. I do believe that they are buried in the same tomb,” he stated at a conference in Palermo, Italy, earlier this month. “We are so close to discovering the accurate location of the tomb; we are on the right [track].”
The tomb of Antony and Cleopatra has been a point of interest for archaeologists for centuries, not least because of their reputation as ancient history’s most powerful lovers, immortalized in Shakespeare's tragedy, Antony and Cleopatra.
Cleopatra VII was the last monarch of the Ptolemaic Kingdom, ruling Egypt from 51 BCE to 30 BCE. Following the assassination of Roman emperor Julius Ceaser in 44 BCE, who she also had a famous relationship with, Cleopatra set her sights on the Roman general Mark Antony and the two began an affair, along with an important political alliance.
Caesar's death also saw Antony team up with two more of Ceasar’s top allies, Octavian and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. However, things quickly turned sour. Strained by their egos and ambitions, Octavian and Antony fell out, embarking on a series of civil wars against each other. The decisive blow to Antony and Cleopatra came with the Battle of Actium – the Final War of the Roman Republic – in 31 BCE. Octavian had won and the Empire was in his grasp. With no other options left, the lovers fled to Eygpt, which was promptly invaded the following year.
In a Romeo and Juliet-like twist, Antony committed suicide by stabbing himself in 30 BCE after mistakenly believing that Cleopatra had killed herself due to the impending defeat (or so the story goes at least). Greco-Roman historian Plutarch wrote that Antony and Cleopatra were buried together, however, the location of the infamous duo's tomb has never been placed.
Then, in 2009, a breakthrough emerged. Archaeologists, including Zahi Hawass, discovered a series of artifacts at the Temple of Taposiris Magna that suggested the lovers' tomb was near. They unearthed a number of coins donning Cleopatra’s name and parts of a mask they believed may have depicted Mark Antony.
Almost a decade has passed with no earthshaking breakthroughs. However, as Hawass’ comments show, there is still a great deal of hope that the archaeologists are inching closer to a discovery.