Martínez knew that no Latin American team had ever been granted an excavation permit in Egypt. No Egyptian she met had ever heard of the Dominican Republic. Did she have a chance to lead a project in that arid land?
In order to seek permission to excavate in Egypt, groups are herded into Dr. Hawass’ office and each team has 120 seconds to capture his interest so they may secure their permit. Her turn came. When Martínez’ turn came, she stated, “I’m convinced I’ve found the secret tomb of Queen Cleopatra.” She was pleased when Dr. Hawass said, “What did you say your name was and what country are you from?” Martínez told him. He responded, “So you’ve come from nowhere to give us a lecture on archeology.” He asked her university. “La Universidad Dominicana,” she said. Dr. Hawass stopped looking at her after that, checked his email, signed letters, and wasn’t paying attention to her.
So she took a chance and used her attorney bravado. Martínez banged her hand on his desk and told him he was not listening. She restated her evidence about the site. He told her she had a lot of nerve to say that Cleopatra was buried in Taposiris Magna, after the top archeologists from Italy, France, Germany, the US and Hungary had excavated there for the last hundred years and found nothing. He told her she had used her two minutes, he wasn’t convinced and motioned for her to go.
She continued to argue. Martínez said to Dr. Hawass that he wouldn’t listen to her because she wasn’t linked with a famous university. If she had come from Harvard, he would have paid attention. But people from universities that were not prestigious had good ideas too. The team in the chairs next to hers said they were from Harvard and they would be happy to work with her. They thought her idea about Taposiris Magna was brilliant. That turned Dr. Hawass’ head. He had her present her project to a larger committee. Martínez thanked the Harvard professors for their generous offer, but politely declined. It was important to her that the work remain under Dominican control.
Finally, after six months [a year?] Dr. Hawass relented and Martínez’ team was granted a two month excavation permit. That is a very short amount of time in archeology. It takes one full month to document the site with photos and drawings. That left them one month to dig. Egyptian culture was difficult for Dr. Martínez to manage, because it is rare for women to lead there. She would ask the workers to focus on one area of the temple site, and they would decide to dig in another. Four weeks flew by without success and on the very last day, they found an artifact that helped them secure the next permit.
Do you know someone who just won’t give up?
What have you worked the hardest to achieve?