Ancient treasures may point to Cleopatra's tomb

CBC News

Archeologists will begin excavating sites in Egypt this week in an attempt to uncover what is thought to be the tomb of Cleopatra, a queen of ancient Egypt, and her lover, Roman general Mark Antony.

The lovers committed suicide after their combined forces were defeated by Octavian in the naval battle of Actium more than two millennia ago.

Egypt's top archeologist on Sunday displayed what appears to be evidence that discovery of the lost tomb is at hand.

Zahi Hawass showed journalists 22 coins, 10 mummies, an alabaster head and a fragment of a mask with a cleft chin, objects found in the Temple of Taposiris Magna, 50 kilometres west of Alexandria.

The coins are inscribed with Cleopatra's name, archaeologists say.

Hawass also took journalists on a tour of the 2,000-year-old crumbling limestone temple near the Mediterranean Sea. Archaeologists hope to find the burial site of Queen Cleopatra and Mark Antony as they probe the shafts and tunnels under the temple.

The Roman historian Plutarch said Caesar allowed the two to be buried together, but their tomb was never found.

"We did a survey by radar for one month and the radar showed three important anomalies," Hawass said, adding it's hoped one of the chambers could be the tomb of the doomed lovers.

"If you look at the face of Mark Antony, many believed he had this cleft on his chin and that's why I thought this could be Mark Antony," said Hawass as he showed journalists the mask.

But he admitted archaeologists "are not sure 100 per cent" and joked that the mask could depict Richard Burton, the actor who played the Roman general in the 1963 movie Cleopatra,
co-starring Elizabeth Taylor.

Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, displays part of a mask archaeologists believe may have been that of Mark Antony at the Temple of Taposiris Magna.Zahi Hawass, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, displays part of a mask archaeologists believe may have been that of Mark Antony at the Temple of Taposiris Magna. (Amr Nabil/Associated Press)


Cleopatra: Cosmetiques, Perfumes & Poisons At the time Cleopatra VII reigned in Egypt, perfume making in Egypt was already a 3,000 year-old art. Her famous baths and workshop were allowed to flourish under the protection of Julius Ceaser and later by Mark Anthony. She was one of the wealthiest rulers of the time and infamous in her use of scent. According to legend, she would drift down the Nile on a barge that was enveloped in a cloud of perfume, her body glistening with rare and exotic oils, and the sails of her vessel were permeated with the seductive scents of rose, patchouli, and other aphrodisiacs. The materials most often used for perfume were: rose (especially favored by the Romans), lotus blossom, lily, honey, sweet flag, camel grass (lemongrass), lavender, saffron, cassia, nard (spikenard), cinnamon, myrtle, laurel, marjoram, costus root, ginger root, cardamom, labdanum, rosewood, cyperus, wormwood, fenugreek, balsam, galbanum, opoponax, styrax, orris root, myrrh, frankincense. Perfumes were based in oil or a combination of oil, honey and raisins. All of these ingredients are available to us today. Unguents are made by combining perfumed oil in a natural wax base. In the days of ancient Egypt, unguents were used to both perfume and protect the skin from the harsh sun and dry heat. One of the Cleopatra's beauty secrets was to bathe in scented milk. Natural milk contains proteins and lactic acid (which is itself an alpha hydroxy acid). These help soften and restore suppleness to the skin. After Anthony's demise and Roman intrigue and her suicide, just 30 years before the birth of Christ, the perfume trade was lost to the Egyptians. The Romans embraced scent and were noted for their excesses, and once in control of the trade routes they funneled the lucrative endeavor to Rome


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