ARCHEOLOGISTS and forensic experts believe they have identified the skeleton of Cleopatra’s younger sister, murdered more than 2,000 years ago on the orders of the Egyptian queen.
The remains of Princess Arsinöe, put to death in 41BC on the orders of Cleopatra and her Roman lover Mark Antony to eliminate her as a rival, are the first relics of the Ptolemaic dynasty to be identified.
The breakthrough, by an Austrian team, has provided pointers to Cleopatra’s true ethnicity. Scholars have long debated whether she was Greek or Macedonian like her ancestor the original Ptolemy, a Macedonian general who was made ruler of Egypt by Alexander the Great, or whether she was north African.
Evidence obtained by studying the dimensions of Arsinöe’s skull shows she had some of the characteristics of white Europeans, ancient Egyptians and black Africans, indicating that Cleopatra was probably of mixed race, too. They were daughters of Ptolemy XII by different wives.
Cleopatra, the last Egyptian Pharaoh, renowned for her beauty, was part African, says a BBC team which believes it has found her sister's tomb.
Queen Cleopatra was a descendant of Ptolemy, the Macedonian general who ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great.
But remains of the queen's sister Princess Arsinoe, found in Ephesus, Turkey, indicate that her mother had an "African" skeleton.
Experts have described the results as "a real sensation."
The discovery was made by Hilke Thuer of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
"It is unique in the life of an archaeologist to find the tomb and the skeleton of a member of Ptolemaic dynasty," she said.
"That Arsinoe had an African mother is a real sensation which leads to a new insight on Cleopatra's family and the relationship of the sisters Cleopatra and Arsinoe."
Hawass said archaeologists believe the 4th dynasty founder Pharaoh Sneferu's burial chamber lies undiscovered inside the pyramid.
The inner chambers of the nearby Red pyramid, also built by Sneferu, are already accessible to visitors. Hawass said several other nearby pyramids, including one with an underground labyrinth from the Middle Kingdom, would also be opened in the next year.
"It is amazing because of a maze of corridors underneath this pyramid — the visit will be unique," said Hawass, about the pyramid of Amenhemhat III, who ruled during Egypt's 12th dynasty from 1859-1813 BC.
"Twenty-five years ago, I went to enter this pyramid, and I was afraid I would never come back, and I had to ask the workmen to tie ropes around my leg so I wouldn't lose my way," he recalled.
Only 5 percent of tourists coming to Egypt visit the three pyramids of Dahshur, Hawass said.
He hoped increasing access to the monuments would bring more visitors. But he also cautioned that the Western fast food restaurants and hundreds of hawkers selling kitschy souvenirs near the Giza pyramids would not be allowed at Dahshur, which is currently surrounded by agricultural fields on one side and open desert on the other.