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Egypts Lost City

Egypts Lost City

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Published by BZ Riger
Egypts Lost City
Egypts Lost City

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Published by: BZ Riger on Dec 31, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/19/2014

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A R C H A E O L O G Y
8
 Archaeologists are bringing
 
Heracleion, an ancient port
 
frozen in time at the bottom of the
 
Mediterranean Sea, back to life
Words:
Matthew Symonds
Images:
Christoph Gerigk
F
OR CENTURIES THE only physical evidence of the ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion was a handful of mentions in ancient texts. In its heyday, at the end of the era of the pharaohs, it was said to be an incredibly wealthy port, acting as the gateway to Egypt. It was even said to have been visited by Helen of Troy before being lost beneath the Mediterranean Sea around 1,200 years ago.While few scholars doubted that Heracleion once existed, it was far from clear if it would ever be found. But in 2000, it was rediscovered some 6.5km from the modern Egyptian coast. Today, archaeologists are finding tablets, gold coins and huge statues that had been hidden for centuries, and which show how important this port would have been.Finding this lost city was not easy.The ancient texts placed Heracleion, also known as Thonis, near Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile as it opened into the Mediterranean. But anyone seeking it faced a trail that had long gone cold.Franck Goddio, president of the Institut Europeen d’Archeologie Sous-Marine, was not deterred. With the aid of the French Commission of Atomic Energy, he developed a custom-built nuclear resonance magnetometer to search the seabed off the Egyptian coast. The magnetometer detects objects by the disturbances they create in the seabed's magnetic field, and in 1999 Goddio found something. At Aboukir Bay, on the north coast of Egypt, there were faults in the clay sediment - a sign of the disaster that destroyed the city. **
50 /FOCUS
/ SEPTEMBER 2013
 
SEPTEMBER 2013 /
FOCUS / 51
 
- - ; - A E O L O G Y
WHERE WAS HERACLEION?
Its position at the mouth of the Nile brought it wealth
 At the time it was founded in the 8th Century BC. Heracleion was located at the mouth of the River Nile. Today it is 6.5kmoff the Egyptian coast. Heracleion’s status di.....shed after nearby Alexandria was founded in around 331 BC. More conveniently located to capitalise on trade with the west, this new port city also lay on a natural limestone ridge - a far more stable environment than the Nile silts that doomed Heracleion.
O
 Heracleion and neighbouring Canopus - an ancient Las Vegas infamous during the Roman era for its debauchery - were built on a thin layer of silts capping waterlogged clay. One suggestion is that a tsunami added to the pressure exerted by major buildings, forcing the water out of the clay and bringing a sharp drop in ground level. As the ground level dropped, the cities above were lost. Whatever triggered the collapse, this was a disaster waiting to happen - the unstable substrata that formed the foundations of these cities meant they were doomed from the outset.
HIEROGLYPHIC PROOF
While science had led the exploration team to the lost city, it could not positively identify the site. The only way to prove that this was ancient Heracleion was to send down divers."In the first year we found part of an inscribed chapel that belonged to the main city temple,” says Goddio. "On it was written in hieroglyphics that this temple was dedicated to Amun-Gereb. We know that this was the God worshipped in Heracleion. Finding this proof was an extreme pleasure."With Heracleion identified, under;, s:?- excavation began and the Universit,
cf 2 —— 
 
Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OC VA *e invited to study the artefacts being d s:: stb: Overtime, the Oxford team has also fceccr-e involved in the excavations."It has all the fun of a normal dry-iaad excavation with none of theteo;:_£ '£~ : spoil," says Dr Damian Robinson, d rscr:' r the OCMA. "We have to get through =cc5I r~ of mobile sand, and we do that using £ .'.ff dredge.” This tool works by pumping r=r down a hosepipe from a support sftp £4m-long plastic tube. The water is - errs: midway along the plastic tube's lengr ££~: ~ being ejected out of one end. This the water creates suction at the c~€r arc r the plastic tube, allowing it to suo ^nesarc"Visibility is really poor," says
Rgo
nscr "Some days you'll see a few metres. ^ days you’ll see a few centimetres - = : r ££in a submerged city covering arc-" 2- 'But despite the poor visibility, the tea- - ££managed to capture some stu—g _£^£ r the archaeology on the seabec. '.'an. r resE photographs show statues and stea4 -: - A inscriptions - found within the rL :'£
"'in- lamr
52 / FOCUS
/ SEPTEMBER 2013

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