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viernes, 29 de mayo de 2009

Search for Antony and Cleopatra's Tombs Begins

Doomed lovers Cleopatra and Mark Antony have been missing since they committed suicide in 31 B.C. Now archaeologists plan to excavate three sites in Egypt that could contain their tombs.

The celebrated queen of Egypt and the Roman general could have been buried in a deep shaft in a temple near the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said in a statement Wednesday.

Excavation work on the sites will begin next week.

Archaeologists last year unearthed the alabaster head of a Cleopatra statue, 22 coins bearing Cleopatra's image, and a mask believed to belong to Mark Antony at the temple.

The three sites were identified last month during a radar survey of the temple of Taposiris Magna, the council's statement said. The temple is located near the northern coastal city of Alexandria, and was built during the reign of King Ptolemy II (282-246 B.C.)Teams from Egypt and the Dominican Republic have been excavating the temple for the last three years. They found a number of deep shafts inside the temple, three of which were possibly used for burials. The lovers could be buried in a similar shaft, the statement said.

The lovers committed suicide after being defeated in the battle of Actium.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's top archaeologist, said the Cleopatra statue and coins -- which show an attractive face -- debunk a recent theory that the queen was "quite ugly."

"The finds from Taposiris reflect a charm ... and indicate that Cleopatra was in no way unattractive," said Hawass, according to the statement.

Academics at Britain's University of Newcastle concluded in 2007 that the queen was not especially attractive. Their conclusion was based on Cleopatra's depiction on a Roman coin which shows her as a sharp-nosed, thin-lipped woman with a protruding chin.

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