Sphinx raised from sea-bed

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A SPHINX, retrieved from the ruins of a sunken city in the Mediterranean where Cleopatra once had a palace, has been lifted from the sea-bed to show archaeologists an example of the countless treasures that the site contains.

Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities now proposes turning the site into an underwater museum. "We are opening a whole new world. This is the world's heritage," said Gaballa Ali Gaballa on board the Princess Duda, which brought to the surface the 2,000-year-old granite sphinx, depicting Cleopatra's father, Ptolemy XII.

Instead of pulling up the artefacts or draining water from the area - barely half a mile from the bustling marina of Alexandria - Mr Gaballa proposes building a network of underwater transparent tunnels to allow visitors to view the area.

Tourists would go down into the tunnels to see the ruins of Alexandria's royal court, which plunged into the sea more than 1,600 years ago after a series of earthquakes and tidal waves. A feasibility study for the museum was launched this week.

"It sounds crazy, but I know it can be done," said Mr Gaballa, Egypt's chief archaeologist. He refused to say how long or how much money it would take to build the tunnels around the site, which is about 20 feet down.

The existence of the historically documented royal court was not confirmed until 1996. Then French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio discovered the location after four years of exploration with the help of sophisticated equipment, including a satellite global positioning system.

Mr Goddio drew accurate maps of the submerged quarters, including columns, statues, and sphinxes.

While the discovery is not likely to reveal great secrets, it "gives a new perspective on the lives of people like Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and Antony," said Mr Goddio. (AP)