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Wednesday, October 28, 1998 Published at 19:55 GMT

World: Middle East

Divers probe underwater palace

A statue of the goddess Isis emerges from Alexandria's murky waters

By Barbara Plett in Alexandria

Damian Grammaticas: "Discoveries won't reveal new secrets but bring us within touching distance of history"
A team of marine archaeologists led by Frenchman Franck Goddio, has been excavating an ancient city in the murky waters of Alexandria's harbour, from where Cleopatra, the last queen of the Ptolemies, ruled Egypt.

Historians believe Cleopatra's royal quarters were submerged by earthquakes and tidal waves more than 1,600 years ago.

The Egyptian Government says it wants to leave most of the artefacts in place and would like create an underwater museum for visitors to see them.

The excavators, who are creating a map of the ruins with sophisticated electronic equipment, have been concentrating for the past year on the submerged island of Antirhodus.

Cleopatra's palace

Cleopatra is said to have had a palace there, and Mr Goddio believes he may have found its foundations.

Other discoveries include a well-preserved shipwreck and red granite columns with Greek inscriptions. A group of dignitaries and journalists gathered in the mission's boat to see two statues found on the island lifted out of the harbour.

One was a priest of the goddess Isis; the other a sphinx whose face is said to represent Cleopatra's father, King Ptolemy XII.

The artefacts were returned to their silent, watery homes after a brief encounter with the 20th Century, and antiquities officials hope that is where they will stay.

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