Cleopatra's palace sank long ago into the Mediterranean, but visitors to Alexandria, Egypt, may eventually view the complex's remnants via the world's first underwater museum.
In early September the United Nations cultural agency, UNESCO, announced it is funding a team to determine if such a museum is feasible. If built, the museum could display treasures and monuments of her palace, which once stood on an island in one of the largest human-made bays in the world but were submerged by earthquakes from the fourth century A.D. onward. The bay is filled archaeological sunken treasures. In the 1990s archaeologist-divers found thousands of objects: 26 sphinxes, statues bearing gifts to the gods, blocks weighing up to 56 tons, and even Roman and Greek shipwrecks.
The proposed museum could include pieces believed to be from the Pharos of Alexandria lighthouse, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Archaeologists have mapped more than 2,000 submerged objects in the area of the bay where they believe the lighthouse once stood.
The museum would be both inland and underwater, not only for aesthetic value but also because it follows the 2001 UNESCO convention for the preservation of underwater heritage. The convention decided that submerged artifacts should ideally remain on the seabed out of respect for their historical context and, in some cases, because water actually preserves artifacts. The dual nature is intended to create an experience like that of a traditional museum while also allowing visitors to witness artifacts in their submerged states.
Once complete, Egyptian authorities hope, the museum will transform both Alexandria's tourism industry and the city's current landscape.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Underwater Museum Planned for Egypt's Alexandria