Sea gives up lost secrets of Alexandria

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The Independent Online
A royal city, lost in the depths of mythology and hidden for over 2,000 years in the harbour waters of an Egyptian desert port, has been located by archaeologists. The discovery of the lost city of the Ptolemies, where Cleopatra, Mark Anthony and the Caesars of the Roman Empire once walked, has ended one of the great puzzles of archaeology.

The vanished royal palace has been located in the extensive eastern harbour waters off Alexandria. Using the latest satellite technology to locate the fallen columns, ancient statues and the foundations of the lost palace, it took a team of 16 divers some 3,500 trips to the seabed to gather evidence that will now be painstakingly poured over by the world's leading archaeologists eager to dissect truth from legend.

Franck Goddio, president of the European Institute of Marine Archaeology in Paris, who presented the findings of the Alexandria hunt, said his team had been forced to drop old theories of the city based on classical descriptions. The new palace map will force extensive rewriting of archeological theories.

Alexandria was built for Alexander the Great in the late fourth century BC. The Ptolemies, the ruling dynasty founded by one of Alexander's military commanders, ruled ancient Egypt till the Roman Empire extended its power into North Africa.

What previously had been accepted as the nature and design of the palace were based on the writings of the Greek geographer Strabo. That work has now been found to be somewhat inaccurate. Dr Fawsi El Faharan, Professor of Classical Archaeology at Alexandria University and leader of the project's scientific committee, said: "What we see today is unique - an underwater survey of the most important part of Alexandria at its zenith."

Archaeologists have found over 100 artefacts, including columns, pavements, wine flasks, dams and harbour quays.