Who Will Find Cleopatra’s Tomb?

Cleopatra’s burial site is still hidden. An archeologist from the Dominican Republic, Kathleen Martínez, may be the closest anyone has come to discovering it. She’s fought to live her dream of excavating to prove the Egyptian Queen’s role in ancient history.

Kathleen Martínez was fascinated with Cleopatra from an early age. At 15, she declared her intent to study archeology. Her father told her to choose another career, where she could be successful in her home country. He was an attorney, so she chose law. Ms. Martínez became one of the foremost criminal lawyers in the Dominican Republic. She married, had two children, and the family moved to Spain for her husband’s career. In Madrid, Ms. Martínez studied a master’s in finance and a master’s in archeology.

All the while, she continued to research Cleopatra to find out as much as she could about her history, studying documents and maps. Most archeologists believed Cleopatra was buried in Alexandria, in the section now underwater. Kathleen Martínez disagreed. Her meticulous study of the famous queen led her to draw conclusions as she would about the character of someone in a court case. The Egyptian political system was a theocracy during Cleopatra’ s time. The queen was the living embodiment of the goddess Isis. To Martínez, that meant that Cleopatra would be buried in a temple. She studied each temple in Egypt, and thought the Taposiris Magna site 45 Km (28 mi) outside Alexandria was perfect.

In the early 2000s, Martínez’ lifelong dream began to unfold, with a trip to Egypt. She and a female cousin flew an exhausting 36-hour journey from Santo Domingo to Miami, Miami to Madrid, Madrid to Malpensa, Italy; Malpensa to Cairo. She and her cousin handed their documents to Egyptian passport control in Cairo. At that time the Dominican government did not have an embassy in Egypt. The officer began to grumble in Arabic, a language they didn’t understand. He knew a few words of English, and said, “Mickey Mouse Passports!” They were stunned. Later, an official who spoke English told them, “If a country doesn’t have an embassy in Egypt, it doesn’t exist! Haiti has an embassy here.”

The Dominicanas were detained for 20 hours while the Egyptian authorities checked through Interpol about their US Visas to Miami. That settled, an officer told the Dominicanas, “Welcome to Egypt!” and released them. Martínez has a great attitude about this. She says, because of the delay and questionable-looking transportation to their hotel, she hired a Spanish-speaking tour guide at the airport. Thus, the second day in Cairo she met the best possible person to help them in their quest, because the guide knew the scheduling secretary for the Egyptian antiquities office. The guide called his friend, made the request, covered the phone and said, “How’s 10 am tomorrow?” Martínez smiled and nodded. One brief call accomplished what she’d attempted to resolve for six months from home; an appointment with Dr. Zahi Hawass.

The next morning, she was ready for her permit meeting with the most important man in Egypt to an archeologist. She couldn’t enter many sites without the government’s permission because they were closed to the public. Dr. Hawass asked her questions, and granted her the permit. Martínez visited several temples. When she arrived at the Taposiris Magna site, she knew immediately she was in the right place. She cried, thinking how she’d never get permission to do the work, then brushed herself off and decided to think positively. After a month of research in Egypt, Martínez went home to the Dominican Republic, prepared an extensive project proposal and garnered the support of Dominican University. Soon, she found out that in academic institutions all over the world, Egyptologists were talking about her ideas and laughing.

Kathleen Martínez, Photo: PBS

Had she come this far, only to be her new colleagues’ favorite joke? Next post, we will see who’s laughing now. To be continued…

Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco! ¡Olé! –Rebecca

Cleopatra and Marc Antony Coin from the Taposiris Magna site, Classical Numismatic Group


Rebecca Cuningham

15 thoughts on “Who Will Find Cleopatra’s Tomb?

  1. This is really fascinating for those of us interested in archaeology. Thanks for informing us about Kathleen Martínez and her work. Can’t wait to find out what happens, although you just know I’m going to google her right now. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. And now she seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth. No new post or updates. Perhaps her dig proved to be an embarrassment to the established antiquities hexarchy who are tired of basking in her glow and are now usurping her find. Others where already taking credit for her discovery of a nearby necropolis. Where are you Dr. Kathleen Martinez?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome, thanks for your comment, D. Duggan. Well, as of March 2019 there was a documentary on National Geographic “Lost Treasures of Egypt, Cleopatra’s Tomb” that you can see on YouTube about her latest dig. Dr. Martínez has found additional tunnels outside the wall of Taposiris Magna, though they are underwater. Since she found them with radar and they seem to lead to a chamber underneath the temple… it could be quite exciting when they dig next. I’ll keep my ear to the ground, she often does more interviews in Spanish than in English. -Rebecca


  3. Wow, what a fascinating story and one that I’ve never heard of – look forward to the next chapter!
    Travelled through Egypt for a month back in 1985, when I solo-backpacked around the world for 12 months. I was relieved to have met another traveller as it was a tad dodgy back then solo in Egypt. Although as she was Burmese/Australian and gorgeous-looking, we still had some problems – as young women. 😉


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