Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 12:56 UK

University divers plumb new depths in Egypt

scuba diver
The UU divers were granted rare access to the ruins of the great lighthouse of Pharos

University of Ulster divers have been passing on their expertise to maritime archaeologists in the historic Egyptian port of Alexandria.

Staff from the UU's maritime archaeology centre conducted a 10-day training workshop for 15 archaeologists from north and east Africa who wanted an insight into the challenges of working underwater.

During their stay the UU divers were granted a rare opportunity to explore the underwater remains of the famous Pharos lighthouse - one of the wonders of the ancient world.

Work on the great lighthouse began in 290 BC and when it was completed 20 years later, it was the first lighthouse in the world and the tallest building in existence with the exception of the Great Pyramid.

'Under threat'

The course, hosted by Alexandria University's new Centre for Maritime Archaeology and Underwater Heritage (CMA), involved all aspects of survey, documentation and management of archaeological sites and artefacts from maritime environments and enabled students to gain practical experience by diving in Alexandria's eastern harbour.

Dr Colin Breen from the UU Centre for Maritime Archaeology acted as a consultant during the new centre's establishment as a state-of-the-art facility.

"This course builds upon previous specialised workshops the university has delivered aimed at improving awareness and developing management skills in dealing with maritime archaeology under threat in Africa," he said.

Dr Wes Forsythe, also based at the CMA, said: "The training programme provided a great opportunity not only for the region's archaeologists, but for us to use the best facility in Africa and of course dive on one of the world's greatest underwater archaeological sites."

The course was carried out in collaboration with staff from Alexandria University, Southampton University, the Nautical Archaeology Society and the British Museum.

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