(WTVO) — A new tunnel discovered under an Ancient Egyptian temple may lead to Cleopatra’s tomb, according to one archaeologist.
Kathleen Martinez, an archaeologist at the University of Santo Domingo, and her team found the 4,281-foot tunnel located 43 feet underground, according to CNN. Domingo has been searching for Cleopatra’s lost tomb for nearly 20 years, and she said that she believes this tunnel is a pivotal breakthrough.
“The excavation revealed a huge religious center with three sanctuaries, a sacred lake, more than 1,500 objects, busts, statues, golden pieces, a huge collection of coins portraying Alexander the Great, Queen Cleopatra and the Ptolemies,” Martinez said. “The most interesting discovery is the complex of tunnels leading to the Mediterranean Sea and sunken structures.”
Martinez has been searching for the Egyptian queen’s tomb since 2005, and she said that exploring the underwater structures in the next stage of her search. She said that she admires Cleopatra as a mother, a linguist, a student and a philosopher.
“She was an educated woman, probably the first one who studied formally at the Museum in Alexandria, the center of culture in her time,” according to Martinez.
According to popular belief, Cleopatra took her own life by letting an asp bite her soon after Roman General Mark Antony, her husband, died in her arms in 30 BCE. Not much is known about where their remains lie more than two millennia later, though the moment has been immortalized in literature and art.
Martinez was led by a series of clues to believe that Cleopatra’s tomb might be in the Temple of Osiris, which is located in ruined city of Taposiris Magna on Egypt’s northern coast. The name of the city was the chief clue that led Martinez to believe this was the burial site.
Cleopatra was considered to be “the human incarnation of the goddess Isis” in her time, according to Martinez. Antony was considered to be that of the god Orisis, Isis’ husband. Martinez believes that Cleopatra might have chosen the temple as her husband’s burial site because of that myth.
Martinez took her theory to Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass in 2004, when Hawass was Egypt’s minister for antiquities affairs. Her project was approved the next year.
Excavations of the temple have revealed that it was dedicated to Isis, which is another sign that the lost tomb is nearby, according to Martinez. She said that she is at “the beginning of a new journey,” which is underwater excavations.
She said that, if the tunnels lead to Cleopatra, “it will be the most important discovery of the century.”