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The Underwater Museum

  Proposal for an Underwater Museum at Alexandria

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (October 30, 1998) ? Would you be willing go underwater to visit a museum? Egypt?s Supreme Council of Antiquities is betting that thousands of tourists will flock to a proposed new museum on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea. What?s the big attraction down there? Museum-goers will find the ruins of the sunken city that was home to Cleopatra, one of history?s most memorable women.

The unusual museum is being discussed because of concerns about protecting recent discoveries made by French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio. Goddio and his team of divers have located the ancient city of Alexandria. Alexandria was submerged more than 1,600 years ago after earthquakes and tidal waves destroyed palaces, temples, and the nearby harbor. During more than 2,200 dives from their research ship, the Princess Duda, the team has uncovered a treasure trove of artifacts. Among their finds was an 825-pound sphinx from 50 B.C., half-lion and half-man, believed to represent Cleopatra?s father, Ptolemy XII. Divers also found other priceless items, including a statue of a priest, a marble bust believed to portray Antonia Minor (daughter of Mark Antony and stepdaughter of Cleopatra), columns, pavements, and even a carved pier.

Goddio and his team returned the artifacts to their underwater tombs after a brief viewing by journalists and experts. Since the underwater environment seems to have preserved the items so well for so long, some people think that an underwater museum makes more sense than showcasing the items in a regular museum built on the ground. Submarines would ferry visitors down to transparent tunnels, allowing tourists a close-up look at the artifacts and ruins without ever moving them from the seafloor.

A feasibility study for the project has been started. The Egyptian government must give its approval before the plans can move forward.

"Underwater museum planned to showcase Cleopatra?s city." Columbia Missouri Tribune Online [electronic newspaper]. 30 October 1998. Available from

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