Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt is the companion book to the National Geographic exhibit running at the Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) until April 15, 2012. Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth is the companion book for the British Museum exhibit that crossed the pond to The Field Museum in Chicago 10 years ago. The National Geographic exhibit at MPM goes further than the British Museum exhibit by creating a facsimile underwater resting place of artifacts and statues found in archaeologist Franck Goddio's recent excavation of Alexandria, the Ptolemaic capital of Egypt.
Cleopatra was actually Cleopatra VII. If you expect to see portraits and statues of her, you'll be disappointed to find the Romans were ruthlessly efficient in destroying the likeness of their enemies. A few surviving coins only show her profile. However that hasn't stopped countless painters, sculptors, playwrights and actors from fantasizing about her through the millenniums as both exhibits display.
Even though there is little overlap between the artifacts displayed in both exhibits and their companion books, they put Cleopatra into context by showcasing materials of Ptolemaic Egypt. She wasn't Egyptian, but Macedonian Greek. Her Ptolemy family ruled Egypt for 300 years since Alexander the Great. Even though she was the first Ptolemy to speak Egyptian, her official documents were in Greek as well as using hieroglyphics to maintain continuity with the heritage and rituals of Ancient Egypt.
Explorer Kathleen Martinez has expanded the search for Cleopatra's tomb from underwater Alexandria to excavating around the temple at Taposiris Magna in the belief that she and her last lover Marc Antony might be secretly buried there. Whether or not her tomb is found, Cleopatra will continue to allure us for many generations to come.
Submitted by Van Lingle Mungo