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The stele has hieroglyphic and demotic inscriptions and measures 41 inches

Rosetta-style engraving lauding Cleopatra I and two Ptolemaic Pharaohs unearthed in Egypt

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A 2,200-year-old Rosetta-style limestone stele has been found at an ancient site near the Mediterranean Sea and the city of Alexandria in Egypt. Though archaeologists and Egyptologists haven’t deciphered the entire meaning yet, they say that, like the Rosetta Stone, the stele commemorates ancient Egyptian royalty, in this case two Ptolemaic pharaohs and Cleopatra I.

This finding dates to the reign of Ptolemy V Epiphanes, 204 B.C. to 180 B.C. of the Ptolemaic Dynasty, 332 B.C. - 30 B.C. The Ptolemys ruled Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C.

Antiquties Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said on Facebook that the importance of this discovery lies in the different scripts it was inscribed in. The stele has hieroglyphs and an apparent translation into demotic script. Demotic was a language used by the common people, while royals and the upper class used hieroglyphics.

The stele resembles the Rosetta Stone, which was inscribed in the ninth year of king Ptolemy V's reign. That is two years after the Taposiris Magna stele was inscribed. The find is an exact copy of a stele from the Philae Temple near Aswan, which also dates to Ptolemy V’s reign. In it the pharaoh offered a large area of Nubia to the goddess Isis and her priests.

The world famous Rosetta Stone

The world famous Rosetta Stone (Wikimedia Commons)

The Rosetta Stone in translation into English begins by lauding Horus and saying Ptolemy is the “Son of the Sun” and the beloved of Ptah:

On the twenty-fourth day of the month GORPIAIOS, which correspondeth to the twenty-fourth day of the fourth month of the season PERT of the inhabitants of TA-MERT (EGYPT), in the twenty-third year of the reign of HORUS-RA the CHILD, who hath risen as King upon the throne of his father, the lord of the shrines of NEKHEBET and UATCHET, the mighty one of two-fold strength, the stablisher of the Two Lands, the beautifier of Egypt, whose heart is perfect (or benevolent) towards the gods, the HORUS of Gold, who maketh perfect the life of the hamentet beings, the lord of the thirty-year festivals like PTAḤ, the sovereign prince like RĀ, the King of the South and North, Neterui-merui-ȧtui-ȧuā-setep-en-Ptaḥ-usr-ka-Rā-ānkh-sekhem-Ȧmen, the Son of the Sun Ptolemy, the ever-living, the beloved of Ptaḥ, the god who maketh himself manifest.

The Rosetta Stone decree appears in three scripts: Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic script, and Ancient Greek. Because it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts, it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The Taposiris Magna Temple

The stele was found at Taposiris Magna temple on Lake Mariout by archaeologists with the Catholic University of Santo Domingo working with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.

Several other important finds have been made at Taposiris, including beautiful statues from which the heads were removed centuries ago, ironically possibly by Catholic iconoclasts seeking to stamp out the ancient Egyptian religion.

Ruins of the Osiris Temple at Taposiris Magna

Ruins of the Osiris Temple at Taposiris Magna (Photo by Koantao/Wikmedia Commons)

The Supreme Council of Antiquities’ Dr. Zahi Hawass said in 2010, when a large Ptolemaic statue was found, “the mission has discovered a collection of headless royal statues, which may have been subjected to destruction during the Byzantine and Christian eras. A collection of heads featuring Cleopatra was also uncovered along with 24 metal coins bearing Cleopatra’s face.”

Hawass said in 2010 the headless statue “is very well preserved and might be one of the most beautiful statues carved in the ancient Egyptian style.” It may be an image of Ptolemy IV, who had the Taposiris Magna temple complex constructed.

A beheaded statue possibly of Ptolemy IV found at Taposiris Magan in 2010

A beheaded statue possibly of Ptolemy IV found at Taposiris Magan in 2010 (Supreme Council of Antiquties photo)

The head of the Dominican Egyptian Mission, Dr. Kathleen Martinez, said in six years at Taposiris Magna Site they’ve made many important discoveries about ancient Alexandria. Major discoveries include tombs of nobles, statues of the Isis and many bronze coins showing Cleopatra.

Martinez has been interested in Cleopatra and her lost tomb for quite some time. She has proposed an alternative to the popular belief that Cleopatra was buried in the ancient city of Alexandria. Instead, Martinez believes that Cleopatra may have been laid to rest beneath a temple. That location could have served a double purpose – keeping her body from the hands of the Romans, and to support Cleopatra’s belief that she was an incarnation of Isis (in Cleopatra’s belief, Mark Antony was also the living form of the god Osiris). Cleopatra may have wanted to be treated as a goddess even after death, thus her final resting place at a temple would make sense following that belief.

Featured image: The stele has hieroglyphic and demotic inscriptions and measures 41 inches (105 cm) by 25.6 inches (65 cm) by 7 inches (18 cm).  (Photo by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities)

By Mark Miller



Cleopatra was was one of the few famous queens who ruled ancient Egypt? she brought the Egyptian and Roman empires together through her relationship with Mark Antony.
Cleopatra was well educated and clever; she spoke various languages and served as the dominant ruler in all three of her co-regencies.

The end of Cleopatra started right after Actium Sea Battle in 31 B.C when she announced the war against Octavian, the Roman leader.
Cleopatra and her lover Mark Antony commanded several hundred ships, many of them well-armored war galleys equipped with wooden towers for archers, massive rams and heavy grappling irons.
Mark Antony and Cleopatra lost the war so Cleopatra killed herself when she heard that Antony was killed in the battle.

Cleopatra had a son called Caesarion, after her death Octavian executed him, and used Cleopatra’s treasure to pay off his veterans. In 27 B.C., Octavian became Augustus, the first and arguably most successful of all Roman emperors. He ruled a peaceful, prosperous, and expanding Roman Empire until his death in 14 A.D. at the age of 75. are correct when you say that this article does not refer to Cleopatra VII, but to Cleopatra I Syra. Cleopatra I Syra translates to Cleopatra the Syrian. She was the daughter of Antiochus III The Great (King of the Seleucid Empire) and Laodice III (Queen of the Seleucid Empire), therefore Cleopatra I was a princess of the Seleucid Empire. Cleopatra I was to become the Queen of the Ptolemaic Empire when she married Ptolemaic King Ptolemy V Epiphanes. This stele dates to the reign of Cleopatra I Syra's husband, Ptolemaic King Ptolemy V Ephiphanes, who reigned from 204-181 BC. Cleopatra I Syra didn't live to be very old in life; being born in 204 BC and passing away sometime between 178-176 BC. Therefore, she only lived to be 26 to 28 years of age before she passed away. She was promised to Ptolemy V Ephiphanes as his wife by her father in 195 BC as a peace offering between the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties. The engagement occurred when she was 8 years old and Ptolemy V Ephiphanes was 14 years old. Their marriage took place in 193 BC when Cleopatra I Syra was 10 years old and Ptolemy V Ephiphanes was 16 years old. The couple went on to have two sons and one daughter. Their children were Ptolemy VII born in 186 BC, Cleopatra II born sometime between 187-185 BC, and Ptolemy VIII born in 184 BC. Ptolemy V Ephiphanes died in 180 BC when he was around 29 years old and Cleopatra I Syra was about 23 years old. She went on to rule jointly with her 6 year old son, Ptolemy VII, after the death of her husband. She would not rule very long with her son; she would only rule with her son 2 to 4 years before her death. The exact cause of her death is unknown. Cleopatra's descendants through her children would continue to reign over the Ptolemaic and Seleucid Empires for a long time after her death.

If the text on this stele is c.2,200 years old and therefore dated to c.180 BC, then it cannot refer to Cleopatra VII - the famous Egyptian pharoahess who was involved with Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Octavian - who lived in the period 69-30 BC. It might, however, refer to one of her six earlier namesakes. If so, the misleading headline should have been amended accordingly.

Mark Miller's picture


Mark Miller has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and is a former newspaper and magazine writer and copy editor who's long been interested in anthropology, mythology and ancient history. His hobbies are writing and drawing.

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