Situated on a spit of land between the Mediterranean and Lake Mariout some 45km west of Alexandria, Taposiris Magna was renowned in antiquity for its temple, founded in the third century BC and dedicated to the cult of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld, and his wife Isis. The name means the “great house of Osiris”. “This is undoubtedly a funerary temple. It is a grand temple, a temple that linked the dead to another world,” explains Dr Altalhawy. “This is not a common archaeological site; it is a very important one.”
Today, Taposiris Magna has been left behind as the surrounding area undergoes dramatic change. Vast Lego-like resorts line the coast. On the roadside near the temple, vendors sell watermelons, oblivious to the potential of what lies nearby. There are no signs or paths to the complex. Without specific directions or a knowledgeable driver, you could easily miss it. Yet it is precisely this isolation that has ensured Taposiris Magna’s preservation.
After the modest archaeological discoveries of downtown Alexandria, the temple of Osiris is an impressive sight. Within its towering white brick walls, several structures are identifiable, ranging from Ptolemaic chambers to Byzantine chapels. Heads of columns lie on the temple floor and an intricate water system of narrow channels surround a small sacred lake. Scattered everywhere are the unmistakable shapes of amphora bases or handles sticking out of the sand alongside countless shards of sun-bleached pottery.
“Everywhere we work, everywhere we dig we find something,” Dr Altalhawy says.
One of the team’s most important discoveries is a temple dedicated to Isis, the Egyptian deity with whom Cleopatra is closely associated.
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