Archaeologists have revealed plans to uncover the 2000 year-old tomb of ancient Egypt's most famous lovers, Cleopatra and the Roman general Mark Antony later this year.
Zahi Hawass, prominent archaeologist and director of Egypt's superior council for antiquities announced a proposal to test the theory that the couple were buried together.
He discussed the project in Cairo at a media conference about the ancient pharaohs.
Hawass said that the remains of the legendary Egyptian queen and her Roman lover, Mark Antony, were inside a temple called Tabusiris Magna, 30 kilometres from the port city of Alexandria in northern Egypt.
Until recently access to the tomb has been hindered because it is under water, but archaeologists plan to drain the site so they can begin excavation in November.
Among the clues to suggest that the temple may contain Cleopatra's remains is the discovery of numerous coins with the face of the queen.
According to Hawas, Egyptologists have also uncovered a 120-metre-long underground tunnel with many rooms, some of which could contain more details about Cleopatra.
Born in Rome, Mark Antony was a military general and commander, as well as supporter of Julius Caesar. He was also Cleopatra's lover and bore him a son, called Caesarion.
After Julius Caesar's assassination in March 44 B.C., Antony formed a triumvirate with Octavian, also known as Augustus, and Marcus Lepidus.
Civil war ensued in Rome due to disagreements between Antony and Octavian, who was Julius Caesar's heir and who later became Rome's first emperor.
Antony was subsequently defeated by Octavian and he later committed suicide.
Cleopatra, who came to power at 18 years of age, was once the ruler of Egypt and considered the last of seven queens of the same name.
She was famous for her intelligence, her beauty and her political power.
Cleopatra who also bore Mark Antony twins, committed suicide after his death in August 30 B.C.
Hmmm ... sounds like we're beginning to get hype for a TV show; note that Hawass made a similar announcement a couple of years ago (can't find this one in my archives ... from the IOL of August 17, 2006):
In little over two months, famed Egyptologist Dr Zahi Hawass hopes to unearth the discovery of his lifetime: the tomb of one of history's greatest women, Cleopatra.
The celebrity archaeologist, who is on a whistle stop lecture tour of South Africa, said that "the discovery would even be bigger than that of King Tut".
Hawass told The Star on Wednesday that he suspects Cleopatra is buried with her Roman lover Mark Antony at a temple 30km from Alexandra called Tabusiris Magna.
This is Hawass's first visit to SA
"I believe it is a very sacred place and this is where they would have hidden Cleopatra and Marc Antony from Octavian," Hawass explained.
Access to the tomb, Hawass believes, is through a shaft. Previously he had descended 35m down the shaft but could get no further because of water.
"It has a high water table but I plan to go back in October," Hawass said.
Some of the clues that point to the tomb belonging to Cleopatra are a coin bearing her face and a statute. Cleopatra and Mark Antony committed suicide as the Roman leader Octavian hunted them in Egypt, in 30BC.
South Africans, particularly those with DSTV, would probably recognise Hawass as that Egyptologist who endlessly appears on documentaries wearing that Indiana Jones-styled hat.
But the Zahi Hawass who appeared in the Wits Great Hall cut a different figure... he was dressed in a charcoal suit.
This is Hawass's first visit to SA and he took the opportunity to introduce the audience to "adventure in archaeology", a slide show tour of some of his discoveries of Egypt.
"You know that 70 percent of Egypt's treasures still need to be uncovered," he said.
Some of these archaeological treasures, Hawass said, actually lie under the streets and houses of Cairo. His lecture also touched on how he organised a CT scan to be done of King Tutankhamun's mummy.
For years scientists have speculated whether the boy king was murdered. The project, which took place at the Valley of the Kings, had even Hawass wondering at one stage if the Curse of King Tut had returned. Unexplained power failures had workers fearing for their lives.
The results of the CT scan, believes Hawass, put to bed the theory that Tut was murdered by a blow to the head.
"What was originally thought of to be the hole in the back of his head that killed him, we found was part of the mummification process," Hawass explained.
While in SA, Hawass has also been in contact with several universities. "Perhaps we could collaborate in the future, talk about excavation techniques," he said.
When he gets back to Egypt, Hawass will have to start preparing for his next big operation - moving a 250 ton statute through the streets of Cairo.
... I'm still waiting to hear about Empereur and the tomb of Alexander ...