Pylon from Cleopatra’s temple raised from the sea

Archaeologists have pulled a massive pylon from the bay of Alexandria, Egypt, that was once a part Cleopatra’s royal complex.

The pylon, a pillar of red granite measuring 2.2 meters long and weighing nine tons, formed part of the temple of Isis and stood right next to Cleopatra’s mausoleum in the year 30 BC. These and other building sank into the harbor during a series of earthquakes more than a thousand years ago.

Unfortunately it looks like Cleopatra’s mausoleum doesn’t contain Cleopatra’s body, so don’t expect some Generation-X Howard Carter to supply us with another treasure of Tutankhamen. It appears that priests took her body inland so she could rest beside her lover Marc Anthony in some unknown location.

The block is interesting in that it shows an Egyptian style despite the fact that Cleopatra was part of the Ptolemaic dynasty, founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals. By Cleopatra’s reign (51-30 BC) Egypt had been under heavy Greek and Roman influence for centuries. Apparently the famous female pharaoh wanted to keep an Egyptian identity, as can be seen in this statue of her as an Egyptian goddess.

The pylon and other artifacts from the sunken royal district may end up in a planned underwater museum that Egypt wants to build in Alexandria. Archaeologists have discovered a whole city graced with 26 sphinxes, countless statues and fragments of architecture, and ancient shipwrecks.

Don’t wait until the new museum is built to see Alexandria. There’s plenty more to experience in one of Egypt’s most interesting cities.