New College of the Humanities

Alexandria Below the Waves

Russell Chamberlin describes the revelations of a recent conference on the archaeology of Cleopatra’s Alexandria.

In 1998 Franck Goddio, the French maritime archaeologist electrified the world with stunning underwater photographs of the sunken Royal City of Alexandria. Even veteran archaeologists were moved. Professor Barry Cunliffe of Oxford’s School of Archaeology described his sense of excitement as, standing on the deck of Goddio’s research vessel in Alexandria harbour he watched as the ship’s winch hauled up a net in which rested the marble head of the Nile god, brought into the sunlight for the first time in 2,000 years.

The dramatic discoveries drew popular, as well as academic, attention to Ptolemaic Alexandria. Following a lecture by Goddio, in June 2003, Oxford’s School of Archaeology founded the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCMA). The Centre works closely with Goddio’s own Institut Europeen d’Archeologie Sous-Marine (IEASM) analysing the discoveries, but also placing them in a wider context. In December 2004 it held its first international conference on ‘The Archaeology of Ancient Alexandria’.

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