Archaeologists Discover Vast ‘Miracle’ Tunnel Under Egyptian Temple Ruin

The tunnel under a temple to the god of the underworld is a "miracle" of geometry, archaeologists said.
Archaeologists Discover Vast ‘Miracle’ Tunnel Under Egyptian Temple Ruin
Images: Facebook/

Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities

Archaeologists have discovered a vast tunnel underneath an ancient Egyptian temple, which some researchers think might point to the long-lost tomb of Cleopatra, one of the most famous queens in history and the last pharaoh of Egypt, who reigned more than 2,000 years ago.

The tunnel extends for nearly a mile below the ruins of Taposiris Magna, a city near Alexandria that was built in the 4th century B.C., which some experts believe is the final resting place of Cleopatra and her lover, the Roman politician Mark Antony. The subterranean passage was found about 65 feet below a temple to Osiris, god of the underworld, and is described as a geometric “miracle” in a statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities posted last week.


Kathleen Martinez, the lead archaeologist of the Dominican-Egyptian expedition that discovered the tunnel, has been searching for Cleopatra’s tomb at Taposiris Magna for over 15 years. She and her colleagues have already discovered hidden chambers and tantalizing artifacts in the temple, including a trove of coins minted with Cleopatra’s name and likeness. 

In 2021, the team unearthed several mummies that were buried in the temple 2,000 years ago, around the time of Cleopatra’s reign, which lasted from 51 to 30 BC, including one that was interred with a golden tongue that was thought to give the dead the ability to speak to Osiris. 

Excavations at Taposiris Magna have been complicated by dozens of earthquakes that have rocked the region since antiquity. Much of the temple is damaged and flooded by water that seeps in from the Mediterranean Sea. Portions of the newly discovered tunnel are underwater, according to the statement. 

Still, the team was able to get a sense of the tunnel’s dimensions and determine that it originally served as an aqueduct that delivered water to thousands of people who lived in this ancient city. Martinez said the structure is very similar to the Eupalinos tunnel on the island of Samos, Greece, which was built several centuries prior to the construction of Taposiris Magna.

It’s unclear whether this tunnel will help to uncover the elusive tomb of Cleopatra, and there is debate among experts about whether the temple at Taposiris Magna is likely to house the legendary queen. 

However, if the remains of Cleopatra and Antony were ever found—either in Taposiris Magna, or elsewhere—it would be a major event on par with the 1922 discovery of the tomb of King Tutankhamun, a pharaoh who reigned more than 3,000 years ago. 

Few rulers have attracted the intense interest and speculation that surrounds Cleopatra, whose life was embroiled by deadly family feuds and love affairs that literally changed the course of history, including a romance with the Roman dictator Julius Caesar.

In addition to her consequential reign, which capped off the Hellenistic period, Cleopatra has enjoyed a long afterlife as the subject of countless artworks, screen adaptations, and even a Shakespeare play. Finding her tomb would finally solve the mystery of her whereabouts and reveal new secrets about her life, but it would also be in character for Cleopatra to remain hidden beyond our reach forever.