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French archeologist Franck Goddio discovered sunken city

After searching for years through screening the vast area of the Abu Qir Bay off the coast of Egypt, French archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team discovered a colossal face emerged from the watery shadows.

Goddio had finally encountered Thonis-Heracleion, completely submerged 6.5 kilometers off Alexandria’s coast. Among the underwater ruins were 64 ships, 700 anchors, a treasure trove of gold coins, statues standing at 16 feet, and most notably the remains of a massive temple to the god Amun-Gereb, and the tiny sarcophagi for the animals that were brought there as offerings. The ruins and artifacts made from granite and diorite are remarkably preserved, and give a glimpse into what was, 2300 years ago, one of the great port cities of the world. The harbor of Thonis-Heracleion controlled all the trade into Egypt. Built around its grand temple, the city was crisscrossed with a network of canals, a kind of ancient Egyptian Venice, and its islands were home to small sanctuaries and homes.

Due to a combination of natural phenomena, including a series of earthquakes and tidal waves, the Portus Magnus and parts of the city’s ancient coastline sank beneath the sea. For more than 1,200 years temples, buildings, palaces, statues, ceramics, coins, jewelry and everyday objects lay untouched on the seabed covered by thick layers of sand and sediment.

Thonis-Heracleion: From Legend to Reality

Thonis-Heracleion (the Egyptian and Greek names of the city) is a city lost between legend and reality. Before the foundation of Alexandria in 331 BC, the city knew glorious times as the obligatory port of entry to Egypt for all ships coming from the Greek world. It had also a religious importance because of the temple of Amun, which played an important role in rites associated with its dynasty continuity. The city was founded probably around the 8th century BC, underwent diverse natural catastrophes, and finally sank entirely into the depths of the Mediterranean in the 8th century AD. Prior to its discovery in 2000 by the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM), directed by Franck Goddio, no trace of Thonis-Heracleion had been found. Its name was almost razed from the memory of mankind, only preserved in ancient classic texts and rare inscriptions found on land by archaeologists. The Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BC) tells us of a great temple that was built where the famous hero Herakles first set foot on to Egypt. He also reports of Helen’s visit to Heracleion with her lover Paris before the Trojan War. More than four centuries after Herodotus’ visit to Egypt, the geographer Strabo observed that the city of Heracleion, which possessed the temple of Herakles, is located straight to the east of Canopus at the mouth of the Canopic branch of the River Nile.


With a unique survey-based approach that utilizes the most sophisticated technical equipment, Franck Goddio and his team, in cooperation with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, was able to locate, map and excavate parts of the city of Thonis-Heracleion. The city is located within an overall research area of 11 by 15 kilometers in the western part of Aboukir Bay at a depth of approximately 10 meters. Franck Goddio has solved a historic enigma that has puzzled Egyptologists over the years: the archaeological material has revealed that Heracleion and Thonis were in fact one and the same city with two names; Heracleion being the name of the city for the Greeks and Thonis for the Egyptians. The objects recovered from the excavations illustrate the cities’ beauty and glory, the magnificence of their grand temples and the abundance of historic evidence: colossal statues, inscriptions and architectural elements, jewelry and coins, ritual objects and ceramics - a civilization frozen in time. The quantity and quality of the archaeological material excavated from the site of Thonis-Heracleion show that this city had known a time of opulence and a peak in its occupation from the 6th to the 4th century BC. This is readily seen in the large quantity of coins and ceramics dated to this period. The port of Thonis-Heracleion had numerous large basins and functioned as a hub of international trade. The intense activity in the port fostered the city’s prosperity. The city extended all around the temple and a network of canals in and around the city must have given it a lake dwelling appearance. On the islands and islets dwellings and secondary sanctuaries were located. Excavations here have revealed beautiful archaeological material such as bronze statuettes. On the north side of the temple to Herakles, a grand canal flowed through the city from east to west and connected the port basins with a lake to the west.

The ancient city of Canopus

The oldest mention of Canopus can be found in a poem by Solon, from the first half of the 6th century BC. According to the poet Nicander (2nd century BC), Menelaus’ helmsman, Canopus, died here, bitten by a viper on the sands of Thonis. The city located close by was named after this unfortunate sailor: Canopus. During the last Pharaonic dynasties and the Ptolemaic period, Canopus was famous for its sanctuaries of Osiris and Serapis. Pilgrims from all over the world came to visit in search of miraculous healing. Throughout the existence of the grand sanctuary of Herakles in Heracleion, the God Osiris was taken from here on his ritual baroque to his sanctuary in Canopus. This procession created a mystical tie between the two neighboring cities. Emperor Hadrian, in order to keep alive the memories of the good times he enjoyed in Canopus, had a replica of part of Canopus built at Villa Hadriana outside Rome. After the destruction of the temples by Christian iconoclasts, the construction of a powerful monastery followed. It became famous for holding the relics of Saint John and Saint Cyril. Those relics brought to the monastery the same powers for miraculous healings as the former pagan temple of Osiris-Serapis and consequently the site continued to be a place of pilgrimage.


Two kilometers to the east of the modern port of Aboukir, the IEASM have identified a zone that contains numerous archaeological remains, including some that clearly corresponded to those discovered by Prince Toussoun in 1933. This site consists of a row of ruins 150 meters long. Broken shafts of columns of red granite are combined with limestone construction blocks and other architectural elements. Artifacts, including jewels, crosses, coins and seals of the Byzantine Period, were found during investigations here. To the north of these structures, under almost two meters of sand, are the well-preserved foundations of a wall that measures 103 meters long. It is suggested that this wall would have surrounded a temple, which from the scale of the wall would be the largest Egyptian shrine found thus far in the region. Pieces of granite inscribed with hieroglyphs were found here. These proved to be further parts of the Naos of the Decades, a famous monolithic chapel, parts of which had already been found underwater at this location by Prince Toussoun in 1933. Among the other fragments of statuary found in this area was a remarkable marble head of the god Serapis, dating from the Ptolemaic Period. (Source: Franck Goddio Foundation)


 Два затонувших города – Гераклион и Каноп



20 лет назад они были обнаружены на дне залива Абукир недалеко от Александрии, рядом с устьем Нила.

Сначала Европейский институт подводной археологии (Institut Européen d’Archéologie Sous-Marine, IEASM), созданный Ф.Годдио в 1987 году, пришел в залив Абукир для изучения событий весьма недавней истории. Речь идет о грандиозном морском сражении, так называемой «Битве при Абукире» (по англ. часто – Battle on the Nile) в 1798 г. После успешных раскопок нескольких кораблей, включая 120-пушечный французский флагман «Восток» (‘L’Orient’), Годдио заручился поддержкой крупной строительной корпорации Hilti для поиска более древних памятников. Хотя египтологам было известно из источников и находок на побережье о существовании в античности двух крупных поселений в этом районе, мало кто из них всерьез рассчитывал на успех подводных поисков. В научном мире лишь известный египтолог Жан Йойотт (Jean Yoyotte) поддержал инициативу Годдио, поскольку во многих своих работах он теоретически локализовал местонахождение городов Гераклиона и Канопа.

С первых же погружений в 1999 году стало очевидно, что обнаружено крупное древнее поселение. На дне находилось нагромождение гранитных колонн и других архитектурных деталей – как выяснилось позже, это был район грандиозного храма Сераписа. В оследующие дни со дна начали поступать первые находки – целая керамика, фрагменты скульптур, в том числе сфинксов, ритуальный инвентарь, украшения. Такая прекрасная сохранность памятника объясняется тем, что район раскопок с давних времен контролировался ВМФ Египта, а развитие подводного спорта на средиземноморском побережье страны было до недавнего времени очень слабым. Таким образом, обнаруженные города избежали участи древних поселений европейского побережья, разграбление которых началось почти одновременно с изобретением акваланга.

Насколько это открытие важно для науки? 
Речь идет о настоящей Атлантиде! Гераклион был портовым городом задолго до постройки Александрии и уже с VIII века до н.э. являлся крупнейшим торговым центром Египта. В портах города было обнаружено на сегодняшний день 64 античных корабля. Это самое крупное кладбище древних судов, известное в мире на сегодняшний день. Конечно, не нужно думать, что под водой сохранилась вся планировка города в первоначальном состоянии – такое под водой невозможно. Ведь район всегда был сейсмически нестабилен, а зимние штормы способны перемещать даже крупные объекты на значительные расстояния. Кроме того, сохранились лишь остатки монументальных зданий из камня, так как жилища традиционно строились из кирпича-сырца и от них ничего не осталось. В то же время анализ распределения сохранившихся фундаментов, мелких находок, связанных с различными культами, эпиграфического материала, позволяет с большой точностью воссоздать топографию города. Также полностью подтвердились сведения античных источников о богатстве храмов Канопа и Гераклиона, так как количество кладов монет, золотых украшений, порой замечательной художественной ценности, богатого ритуального инвентаря превзошло все ожидания. (Источник: ЦЕИ РАН)




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