Ahead of the start of excavations on Tuesday, archaeologists exhibited 22 coins, 10 mummies, an alabaster head and a fragment of a mask with a cleft chin as evidence that the site, a 2,000-year-old temple to the god Osiris, is likely to hold further treasures. They believes that the Toposiris Magna temple, 30 miles from Egypt's ancient seaside capital of Alexandria, contains the tomb of the doomed lovers that has been shrouded in mystery for so long.
"In our opinion, if this tomb is found it will be one of the most important discoveries of the 21st century because of the love between Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and because of the sad story of their death," they said.
Mark Antony and Cleopatra challenged Caesar Augustus for control of the Roman Empire more than two millenia ago. Their armies were defeated and rather than submit to capture, the two lovers committed suicide - Mark Antony by his sword, Cleopatra with a poisonous asp.
The Roman historian Plutarch said Caesar allowed the two to be buried together, but their tomb was never found.