For centuries, parts of the ancient city of Alexandria have lain six to eight metres under the sea. The team at the Centre for Alexandrian Studies (CEAlex, founded in 1989 by Jean-Yves Empereur) carried out an initial series of excavations in 1994.
An obstructed site
The conditions were challenging. Visibility was severely hampered by the murky waters off Alexandria. Additionally, in 1993 hundreds of concrete blocks were dropped into the sea to protect Qaitbay Citadel (built in 1477) and the resulting breakwater obstructed the access to the underwater archaeological artefacts, posing a real threat to their existence.
A series of dives succeeded in identifying almost 3,500 architectural items, including capitals, column bases, sphinxes, obelisks and colossal statues in the Greek and Egyptian styles.
Some of these pieces probably belonged to one of the most famous buildings in the world, the lighthouse of Alexandria.
Pharos, a beacon of Alexandrian influence
Ptolemy I Soter continued the work of Alexander the Great. In 283 BC the construction of the lighthouse, which had three storeys and stood 135 metres tall, was completed. It would survive numerous earthquakes over the following seventeen centuries. The fate of the Seventh Wonder of the World fired the imagination and curiosity of generations of travellers and historians until, finally, French archaeologists in Egypt made their definitive discovery.
Through the use of photogrammetry and the painstaking reassembly of a veritable jigsaw puzzle of digital images, archaeologists gradually pieced together a likeness of one of the most famous structures of antiquity, the Pharos of Alexandria.