RECENT finds of mummies and coins suggest that the discovery of the lost tomb of Mark Antony and Cleopatra is at hand, a leading archaeologist in Egypt said yesterday.
Zahi Hawass showed 22 coins, ten mummies, and a fragment of a mask with a cleft chin to journalists during a tour of a 2,000-year-old temple to the god Osiris, where they were found.
He believes the site near the Mediterranean Sea contains the tomb of the doomed lovers that has been shrouded in mystery for so long.
"In my opinion, if this tomb is found, it will be one of the most important discoveries of the 21st century because of the love between Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and because of the sad story of their deaths," he said.
The Roman historian Plutarch said Caesar Augustus allowed the two to be buried together, but their tomb was never found.
With his trademark Indiana Jones-style hat, Mr Hawass guid-ed journalists through the Top-osiris Magna temple 30 miles from Egypt's ancient seaside capital of Alexandria.
One by one, he held up the fruits of three years of excavation by a team from the Dominican Republic, including the fragment of a mask bearing a distinctive cleft chin.
He said: "If you look at the face of Mark Antony, many believed he had this cleft on his chin and that's why I thought this could be Mark Antony."
Inside the temple enclosure, archeaologists also found coins bearing Cleopatra's name and face, as well as some carvings that could represent the lovers.
For Mr Hawass, however, the most significant element was the recent discovery of tombs from the same period ringing the area around the temple. The tombs included ten mummies of apparent nobles.
"The discovery of the cemetery really convinced me that there is someone important buried inside this temple," said the colourful archaeologist.