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The True Cleopatra’s Palace

The eastern port of Alexandria as it looked during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. The today's sunken lands and structures are marked in yellow. ©Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

TR20Tidbit: Cleopatra’s Palace 

20 years of raiding!

tidbit

This button was designed by me Emma Q copyright 2016

Small Update:

If you go to this enlightening article by the famed Smithsonian, you will understand that the discovery of the palace in my article was the discovery of Goddio not exploitation of another archaeologists’ work. It is this discovery that Goddio is credited for in the Smithsonian article as well as mine.  Read this part Underwater Palaces” of the learned article about Goddio’s discovery among other archaeologists that are a credit to their profession about the further discovery of the ruins of Alexandria.

Here is the first paragraph for your convenience. 

Franck Goddio is an urbane diver who travels the world examining shipwrecks, from a French slave ship to a Spanish galleon. He and Empereur are rivals—there are rumors of legal disputes between them and neither man will discuss the other—and in the early 1990s Goddio began to work on the other side of Alexandria’s harbor, opposite the fortress. He discovered columns, statues, sphinxes and ceramics associated with the Ptolemies’ royal quarter—possibly even the palace of Cleopatra herself. In 2008, Goddio and his team located the remains of a monumental structure, 328 feet long and 230 feet wide, as well as a finger from a bronze statue that Goddio estimates would have stood 13 feet tall.

  • Whatever their disputes are about we do not know, so it is not smart to jump to conclusions. As far as we know today these are the current facts about these findings. If something changes, I shall happily update with those valid facts. Thank you. 

Another little tidbit about Alexandria exploration is, a man named Kamel Abu el-Saadat is the one responsible for getting the UNESCO  involved with the secrets beneath the waters of Alexandria back in the sixties. Read This

Egypts sunken secrets

 

Hi there Tomb Raider fans!

Today I shall explore Cleopatra’s Palace. As we all know there was Cleopatra’s palace in the 4th Tomb Raider game known as “The Last Revelation” Found in level 20, the palace took on a different feel and aesthetic.

However, it was not only being a student of Egyptology that attracted me to this theme. It was also the sunken city aspect of it all. We know that the legend of Kitezh that encompasses Rise of the Tomb Raider was also about a sunken city, so what better topic to kick off the 20th celebration on my fansite with than a piece with a similarity reaching across the years of the franchise and bridging the gap between old and new. By this I mean, the actual palace of Cleopatra VII was located on an island that later sunk.  

Reaching Through Time 

French explorer Franck Goddio, President of the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology, uncovered some of the mystery about Cleopatra’s palace and her holy shrine. 

The famed palace of Greek Pharaoh Cleopatra is located on an island that sunk centuries ago off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt (founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great). The name of the island is (Antirhodos) Cleopatra’s royal island. About 1400 years ago, a disastrous earthquake hit followed by a tsunami off the coast of Alexandria. The result was the devastation of the famed Lighthouse and all structures residing on the island as well as surrounding islands including Cleopatra’s palace and shrine.  Now they are in pieces and much more scattered below the water. The site is 27 hectares and the visibility is limited sometimes to the length of a diver’s arm. Hence the reason for the long duration of time involved to uncover anything. 

Greek occupation lasted for 300 years after Alexander the Great’s death. It ended with the reign of Cleopatra the VII. She ruled Egypt from a magnificent palace that was a triumph of design and a symbol of her power. During her reign, she forged alliances with Roman leaders to keep Egypt free from Roman invasion. However, when she felt she lost her hold from the Roman occupation of her kingdom, she tragically took her own life according to legend.

Another wonderful discovery was an actual statue of Cleopatra from the same site

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Cleopatra VII found under the waters off the coast of Alexandria Egypt. ”Photo: Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation”

Nonetheless, it was several centuries after Cleopatra’s death that the island of Antirhodos was sunk by natural disasters, and the palace, among other structures, were laid to waste below the 10 meters of murky waters and silt.

Alexandria

Alexandria  was a huge city that exceeded 100,000 people when it was finally founded by Alexzander the Great. It was famous for many things including the  130 metres high Pharos lighthouse which represents one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Additionally, Alexandria was famous for its mammoth library with over half a million rolls of papyrus. One of the reasons the natural disaster that hit Alexandria destroyed the palace and shrines temples etc was because they were located in the royal quarter. The royal quarter resided in the eastern harbour called the Portus Magnus. It was there on the island of Antirhodos as well as the Poseidium Peninsula that the legendary Caesar, Marc Anthony and Cleopatra VII lived. The impact of the earthquake and tsunami left a mark on history when it wiped out so many precious and irreplaceable structures and left only mysteries for archaeology to unravel one stone at a time. 

 

It wasn’t until the 1990s that French archaeologist Franck Goddio discovered the ancient writings of the Greek geographer Strabo. According to Strabo, he described the island well along with  the palace which resided on it. This was what prompted Goddio to try to find it. The expedition that followed the discovery of the writing was 10 years in the making. The area to explore and all the places within the realm of the defined perimeters were generated through Strabo’s writings. 

With careful study of the area off of the coast of Alexandria, coupled with modern technology through nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) magnetometers.  Goddio’s team determined what the formation of islands and docks looked like. This map illustrates the lay of the land during the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods and it offers entry into the queen’s world.  

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The eastern port of Alexandria as it looked during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. The today’s sunken lands and structures are marked in yellow. ©Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

During the expedition, Goddio and his team discovered an ancient wreckage of a cargo ship. Seen below.

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View on the wreck discovered in the ancient port of the Island of Antirhodos after the removal of sediment. The analysis of the in mud well preserved wooden remains and of parts of the cargo shows that this ship might date back to the 1st century BC. With ©Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation, photo: Christoph Gerigk

He found jewellery, hair pins, and various other items from the ancient world from this vessel. Among the discoveries were enormous columns/pillars made of red Egyptian granite, ancient docks along with many paintings. The interesting thing about the paintings is the gateway to the island depicted was displaying the columns/pillars discovered earlier, and apparently, they sported a decorated crown on top of each. The below photo is an example of columns made from the same material only these belonged to a building.

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Papyriform pink granite column which belonged to a colonnade of a building that was originally in Memphis. The names of Thoumosis IV, II and Sety Merenptah are still visible. ©Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation, photo: Christoph Gerigk

The column below is what is thought to be part of the aforementioned ceremonial gateway of the royal island. There were 60 of these scattered about an area that Goddio believes would be where the gateway was located. It is depicted in ancient paintings one of which is below.

 

 

 

On further exploration of the area, the team found the foundation to the palace and after dating the material decided it was built 200 years before Cleopatra VII was born. In conclusion, Goddio believes she inherited the palace.

Another fascinating discovery was part of this statue seen below. I have another perspective of this one in the gallery. 

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This granite head (80cm) is attributed to Caesarion (Ptolemaios XV), son of Cleopatra VII and Julius Caesar. It is part of a statue of about 5 metres in height and dates from the 1st century BC. It was found in Alexandria’s ancient harbour opposite the ©Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation, photo: Christoph Gerigk

Goddio’s team also discovered several statues thought to be part of Cleopatra’s shrine/temple. There was a statue of her high priest holding an Osiris-Canopus and two impeccably unspoilt sphinxes (spiritual guardians of temples).  Due to the close proximity to each other, it was determined that they were adjacent to where the shrine was located.

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Divers of Goddio’s team contemplating the statue of a priest carrying Osiris-Canopus, and two sphinxes found nearby. The figures were cleaned and re-erected where they had been found. ©Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation, photo: Christoph Gerigk

The image below is a recreation of what archaeologists now believe the palace looked like. As you can see it was a spectacular structure.

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A Gallery of sunken treasure on the sunken island. 

 

 

I also found this video very informative about the general history surrounding Cleopatra and her palace

 

So what makes this entire subject a magnet to me, is it is another example of an archaeological wonder from the Tomb Raider game brought into the real world. Though the real palace is not completely together and there are no skeleton guards defending its vast interior, the actual palace is also fascinating for it really existed and we know where it is and can dive to visit its mysteries. Although some of the treasures from the site are on tour throughout the world, there is plenty to see below the waters off the coast of Alexandria and discoveries yet to find. Maybe Lara will find them in a future game. 

I shall be back later with another TombRaider 20 Tidbit: 20 years of raiding! 

Explore the world!

~Emma


 

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