Her name is synonymous with power and glamour, yet we know less about Cleopatra's reign than we do about the relatively unimportant tenure of Tutankhamun. But archaeologists are working to add to our collective knowledge of the legendary Egyptian queen, searching land and sea for artifacts as small as coins and as large as massive statues that long ago slipped into the waters off the coast of Alexandria.
Fruits of that exploration can be found in the Franklin Institute's new exhibition "Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt," which opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 2. If you go, don't miss these examples of what has been found so far:
Colossi of a Ptolemaic king and a Ptolemaic queen. It's hard to imagine these 16-foot-tall red granite statues lying on the bottom of the sea, and even harder to imagine what the divers who discovered them might have felt upon first catching sight of them in the murky waters.
Piece of a statue. The tomb in which Cleopatra and her lover Mark Antony rest has yet to be found, but Zahi Hawass, the maestro of Egyptian archaeology, believes they are somewhere inside Taposiris Magna, a temple west of Alexandria. This granite fragment of a face, archaeologists say, might depict Mark Antony - attributes such as the cleft chin match written descriptions of him.
Ancient document. Sometimes the simplest of artifacts can be the most telling. This papyrus note, archaeologists believe, features the handwriting of Cleopatra herself, putting her stamp on an exchange of wheat for wine that would have benefited an aide to Mark Antony. A detail at the bottom translates from the Greek, "Make it happen."
Statue of a queen. Headless, she stands 4 feet 11 inches tall and was carved from granodiorite during the third century B.C., well before Cleopatra's birth in 69 B.C. The statue, of an unidentified Ptolemaic queen, features an Isis knot on its robe. Many Ptolemaic women saw themselves in the goddess, and commissioned works melding characteristics of both. Cleopatra later declared herself the reincarnation of Isis and had such statues made. She dressed as Isis for Mark Antony's first visit.
Stone with gold fragments. It must have felt surreal. There on the seafloor lay a bowl carved from limestone, 6 inches high with a surface area of about a square foot. And inside, presented as if meant to be discovered by the divers, were glimmering fragments of gold, intact after more than 2,000 years. All appears in the exhibit exactly as it was found.