Underwater museum planned in Egypt

I'm midway through a paperback novel called "The Lost Tomb," in which author David Gibbins ("Atlantis," "Crusader Gold") takes readers underwater and underground in search of lost antiquities.

His goal: decipher Biblical mysteries and help find artifacts for various museums.

Although "The Lost Tomb" is fiction, it is based on much real archaeological research, equipment and procedures. All wrapped up in the guise of an adventure story, complete with dangers real and imagined.

So, with all this derring-do fresh in mind, the announcement that the world’s first underwater museum is being planned caught my attention.

This particular project by the Egyptian government and UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) will result in a museum to show the rich cultural and historical heritage that can be found under the Bay of Alexandria in northern Egypt.

UNESCO is expected to start preparatory work this month. The agency has established the "Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage," a global initiative expected to become operational by the end of 2008 after its ratification by 20 nations.

The convention highlights the importance of saving submerged cultural property, which has become increasingly vulnerable to pillaging with the development of more sophisticated and affordable diving equipment.

The Egyptian complex, according to particulars released by UNESCO, will be built partly above and partly under water. The submerged part of the complex will enable visitors to see archaeological remains on the seabed, representing an important advance in the development of underwater cultural heritage exhibitions.

“The first underwater discoveries in the Bay of Alexandria were made in 1911, so you see that this is already a long, ongoing issue in one of the most ancient harbors of the world,” Ulrike Koschtial, the representative for the UNESCO Convention, told The Media Line.

“The whole Bay of Alexandria actually still houses the remains of very important archeological sites. You have the place of the Pharaohs -– the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria -– which is one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World. You have the Polonike Palace, which was the palace of Cleopatra, and there might also be the grave of Alexander the Great,” she said.

Other artifacts recovered from the Bay of Alexandria and adjacent sites will be presented to the public in exhibition sites above water. Adjacent archaeological sites include Abukir Bay, where the vestiges of the sunken cities of Canopus and Herakleion are to be found.
• Guide to Underwater Archaeology
• Underwater Archaeology
The Museum of Underwater Archaeology
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