- - ; - 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.
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.
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,
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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 r the water creates suction at the c~€r arc r the plastic tube, allowing it to suo ^nesarc"Visibility is really poor," says
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 :'£
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/ SEPTEMBER 2013