Tunnel Discovered Under Egyptian Temple

But evidence of Cleopatra’s tomb yet to be found

Egyptian temple tunnel

The tunnel Under the Egyptian Temple, Taposiris Magna. Courtesy Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

While looking for the burial place of Queen Cleopatra, archaeologists uncovered the entrance to a long tunnel running underneath the Egyptian temple of Taposiris Magna, located just west of Alexandria. Partly submerged under the Mediterranean Sea, the tunnel likely originally served as an aqueduct. Although not an entrance to Cleopatra’s tomb as the archaeological team had hoped, this incredible discovery demonstrates there is still much to be discovered from ancient Egypt.


A Mysterious Tunnel Under an Egyptian Temple?

For more than a decade and half, archaeologist Kathleen Martinez of the University of San Domingo has searched the Taposiris Magna Temple for the tomb of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, but to no avail. But while the tomb has yet to be discovered, her expedition continues to uncover remarkable new finds from the temple. Now, these finds include an unexpected and massive tunnel.

Tunnel under the Egyptian Temple

Entrance shaft of the tunnel. Courtesy Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Called a “geometric marvel” by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the 6.5-foot high tunnel runs for roughly 4,300 feet at a depth of 65 feet below the surface. The tunnel was likely used for carrying water, as according to Martinez (via Live Science) it is “an exact replica of Eupalinos Tunnel in Greece, which is considered as one of the most important engineering achievements of antiquity.” That tunnel, located on the island of Samos, served as an aqueduct for nearly 1,000 years.

The Taposiris Magna Temple (meaning “Great Tomb of Osiris”) and the tunnel were likely built together in the early third century BCE and were in use throughout the Ptolemaic period (c. 304–30 BCE). Today, a section of both the tunnel and temple are partly submerged in the Mediterranean Sea as a result of one of the many earthquakes that struck the area in antiquity.

In addition to the tunnel, Martinez and her team made several other discoveries around the Egyptian temple, including two Ptolemaic-era alabaster statues, several coins, and numerous ceramics. In previous seasons, the team uncovered a cemetery filled with Greco-Roman style mummies, a statue of the goddess Isis, mummies with gold-plated tongues, figurines, and numerous coins bearing the image of Cleopatra.

Alabaster head

A small alabaster head, discovered in the tunnel under Taposiris Magna. Courtesy Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.


Cleopatra (r. 51–30 BCE), the last of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt, is believed by many scholars to have been buried with her husband, Marc Antony, the Roman general and right hand of Julius Caesar. The pair chose to commit suicide rather than be conquered by the Roman Empire. Although she has not yet uncovered Cleopatra’s tomb, Martinez believes she is getting close.

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“If there’s a one percent chance that the last queen of Egypt could be buried there, it is my duty to search for her,” Martinez said in an interview. “If we discover the tomb … it will be the most important discovery of the 21st century. If we do not discover the tomb … we made major discoveries here, inside the temple and outside the temple.”


Learn more in Bible History Daily:

Egyptian “Lost Golden City” Uncovered Near Luxor

Rare Egyptian Tomb Discovered in Abusir


All-Access members, read more in the BAS Library:

Were the Ancient Egyptians Black or White?

Moses’ Egyptian Name

When a Woman Ruled Egypt

Not a BAS Library or All-Access Member yet? Join today.

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