Sunken Treasures. In a remarkable underwater archaeological expedition, a team led by French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio, working under the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM), has unearthed new treasures and uncovered long-held secrets at the sunken temple site off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast.
The temple was dedicated to the god Amun and was located in the ancient port city of Thonis-Heracleion, situated in the Bay of Aboukir. This groundbreaking exploration has shed light on an essential religious and historical center, as well as provided insights into the wealth and piety of the city’s former residents.
Discoveries at the Temple Site
The archaeological team embarked on their exploration of the city’s south canal, where they discovered massive stone blocks from the temple that had collapsed during a cataclysmic event around the mid-second century BC. The temple was where the pharaohs sought divine confirmation of their titles as universal kings from the supreme god in the Egyptian pantheon, Amun. During their excavations, the team uncovered invaluable objects that once belonged to the temple treasury, such as silver ritual instruments, gold jewelry, and delicate alabaster containers used for perfumes and unguents.
The most intriguing aspect of these discoveries was that these precious items remained intact despite the catastrophic event that befell the temple. This unusual resilience emphasizes the city’s rich history and the profound devotion of its inhabitants.
Unearthed Wooden Structures and Greek Presence
The excavations, conducted collaboratively by Goddio’s team and the Department of Underwater Archaeology of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Egypt, unearthed underground structures that were supported by remarkably well-preserved wooden posts and beams dating back to the 5th century BC. These findings provided further insight into the city’s architectural history.
East of the Amun temple, the team made another fascinating discovery: a Greek sanctuary devoted to Aphrodite. This sanctuary contained a collection of bronze and ceramic artifacts, reflecting the presence of Greek traders and settlers who had established sanctuaries dedicated to their own gods. These findings demonstrate the harmonious coexistence of different cultures and religious practices in the city.
The discoveries of Greek weapons at the site also suggested the presence of Greek mercenaries who played a role in defending the access to the kingdom, particularly at the mouth of the Canopic Branch of the Nile. This branch, the largest and most navigable in antiquity, held strategic significance in the region.
History Beneath the Waves
Thonis-Heracleion’s ruins currently rest beneath the sea, approximately 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) from Egypt’s present coastline. It was the largest port on the Mediterranean for centuries, until the founding of Alexandria by Alexander the Great in 331 BC.
The city’s disappearance beneath the waves was triggered by a combination of rising sea levels, earthquakes, and tidal waves, which resulted in land liquefaction events. In the end, a vast portion of the Nile delta, encompassing 110 square kilometers, vanished under the sea, taking with it the city of Thonis-Heracleion.
The remarkable findings of this expedition offer profound insights into the city’s historical and religious significance, further illuminating its rich heritage.
The latest discoveries and the ongoing exploration of this underwater archaeological site have unveiled the stories and treasures of a once-lost city, providing a window into the past that has remained hidden beneath the sea for centuries.