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Lake Titicaca: Underwater museum brings hope to shores

Ever since Reddy Guaygua was a boy, he dreamt of discovering hidden ruins.

Born in Mapiri, 130km (80 miles) north of La Paz in Bolivia, he was the only person from his small town to study archaeology. "My goal was to work in the villages, visit their archaeological sites and work in them," he says.

Now, years later, his dream has become reality. Mr Guaygua is in charge of tourism and culture in the town of Tiquina.

Tiquina lies on the shore of Lake Titicaca, which covers more than 8,500 sq km (3,300 sq miles) and creates a natural border between Peru and Bolivia. It was just five minutes from here that the submerged remains of an ancient civilisation was found 10 years ago.

Following information provided by local people, archaeologist Christophe Delaere of the Free University of Belgium located 24 submerged archaeological sites in the lake's waters.

The most important site is in Santiago de Ojjelaya, and it is here that the Bolivian government is planning to build an underwater museum to preserve both the submerged archaeological structures and those on the shore.

The project, estimated to cost $10m (£7.8m) by the time it is completed in 2020, is being financed by the Bolivian government with help from Unesco, and has the backing of the Belgian development co-operation agency.

The 9,360-sq-m building will have two parts, one located on the shore where pieces salvaged from the lake will be exhibited and another semi-submerged part which will allow visitors to see some of the underwater structures, dubbed "hidden city", through glass walls.

José Luis Paz, director of heritage at Bolivia's ministry of culture, says that visitors will be able to see two types of underwater ruins: "ones which correspond to human settlements, sites that are hugging the lake's shoreline, and others [which were] the sites of spiritual offerings".

Mr Paz says the human settlements were probably flooded years before the spiritual sites, which were located in strategic places inside the lake.

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