Cleopatra’s Sunken Palace and what it means for Underwater Archaeology

When you think “underwater archeology,” it’s likely the recent discovery of Cleopatra’s sunken palace that comes to mind. The underwater ruins hold many unique artifacts of Egypt’s last Pharoah, and arguably most famous queen. This includes two perfectly formed sphinxes, several giant columns – 7 meters in length, small boats, jewelry, and pieces of what some believe to be the fabled Lighthouse of Alexandria. 

Diver & Sphinx - Cleopatra's sunken palace
Diver & Sphinx. Source: Franck Goddio

The site was first discovered in 1990 by French archaeologist Franck Goddio. This was 17 years ago. While 17 years may not seem very recent in the Age of Internet, it’s practically yesterday when you consider that the ruins have been down there for nearly 2,000 years.

Although this particular palace was described in detail by Greek geographers and historians, lack of evidence led many to believe that its existence was a myth.

What’s so Interesting about Cleopatra’s Temple?

You may be wondering why this matters. We already know Cleopatra existed, and now we found a few more parts of the story. So what’s the big deal?

The main points that I feel are necessary to highlight here, are the fact that there were multiple writings about the temple, yet many believed it to be a myth. According the stories, the temple was destroyed by an earthquake and sunk into the sea. (Sound familiar?) 

So we had written records of this place, yet we chose not to believe it because we couldn’t find it. Not for 1,600 years anyway. And where did we end up finding it? Under 5 meters of water. 

5 meters. 

Five meters is about as tall as a giraffe. 

Cleopatras temple under 5 meters of water
Compared to the ocean, you're not so tall, are you?

Why should we care about Underwater Archaeology?

There are many reasons why underwater archaeology is important. This stems from humans inherent love for coastal dwelling, and that bad habit that cities seem to have of falling into the sea. I mean, let’s face it. We’ve all heard stories of cities that fell into the sea, but… we didn’t believe it because we didn’t find them? (Remind yourself again that Cleopatra’s temple was lost for 1,600 years under just 5 meters of water.)

So why haven’t we found more things underwater?

A common question about Underwater Archaeology is that “if there are cities underwater, why haven’t we found them?”

It’s really not as simple as just taking a walk on the beach and finding a city. While I’m a firm believer that there are entire cities literally off the coast, underwater archaeology takes a tremendous amount of planning skill and funding.

It took 1,600 years to find something that was just 5 meters underwater. How would we possibly go about finding something 100 meters underwater?  (100 meters is the number I’m interested in. That’s where the pre-ice age ruins are hiding.)

While I’m happy to go exploring 100  meters underwater, let’s not forget that anything more than just 30 meters is considered “deep sea diving.” (also, I’m scared of deep water.)

And what’s the point of this article?

In case it’s become clear that at this point, I’m just rambling, the point is this: 

  • Written history may not be myth – just because we haven’t found it yet.
  • Yes, cities do sink into the ocean
  • No, it’s not easy to find them
  • That doesn’t mean they’re not there
  • The deeper underwater something is, the older it is. If we’re really interested in our past, we won’t find it on land.
  • Aside from “U,” the word underwater is typed completely with your left hand. It’s very tiring.

Share on Google Plus

About Flame Rozario

A self-proclaimed Crypto-anthropologist with a personal interest in ancient intelligent civilizations, underwater archaeology, and the truth that lies behind the legend. I write about a combination of fact, fantasy, and my own personal theories. Why? Because I can.


  1. Want to dive this along with many other sites related to Egyptian history.

  2. question: Cleo's palace at the reach of a giraffe. If in international waters, finders claimers.

    1. If its only 5 meters of water then clearly its not international waters it is very close to the shore of the coastline as its only 5 meters deep.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.