Washington: A headless granite statue of a Ptolemaic king was recently discovered from the ruins of an ancient Egyptian limestone temple.
The temple is believed to have been the burial site of Queen Cleopatra and her lover Mark Antony, and an Egyptian-Dominican team that was searching for the tomb of the doomed lovers found the headless statue.
The Supreme Council of Antiquities issued a statement on May 4, saying the sculpture was unearthed at Taposiris Magna, a site some 30 miles from the port city of Alexandria.
More than 2,000 years old, the statue represents the traditional shape of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh wearing collar and kilt.
"Even though the head is missing, this is one of the most beautiful statues from the Ptolemaic period. I think it portrays Ptolemy IV, the pharaoh who constructed temple," Discovery News quoted Dr Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt``s Supreme Council of Antiquities, as saying.
The team, led by Dr Hawass in collaboration with the Dominican archaeologist Kathleen Martinez, also discovered the temple``s original gate on its western side.
The entrance of the building, which was dedicated to Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld, was made up of a series of limestone foundation stones. One of the stones showed traces that a sphinx statue once stood upon it.
"This means that there was a sphinx avenue similar to those of the pharaonic era outside and inside the temple," Hawass said.
The Egyptian-Dominican team spent the past five years trying to locate the last resting place of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, the Roman general who became Cleopatra``s lover and had three children with her.
The couple supposedly committed suicide after Roman Emperor Octavian defeated their combined forces in the Battle of Actium more than two millennia ago.
While excavating the site, a radar survey of the temple identified three spots where a burial chamber might lay deep underground, leading the archaeologists to unearth several significant artifacts.
These include a number of headless royal statues, which may have been subjected to destruction during the Byzantine and Christian eras, a collection of heads featuring Queen Cleopatra, and 24 metal coins bearing Cleopatra``s profile.
Behind the crumbling temple, a necropolis was also discovered, containing many Graeco-Roman style mummies.
Hawass said that early investigations show that the mummies were buried with their faces turned toward the temple, which means that a significant royal personality could be buried inside the temple.
"All these findings are leading us to the discovery of the tomb of Cleopatra. They show that something important is waiting for us inside the temple," Hawass added.