For many centuries the fabled city of Heracleion was thought to be a myth, a place of amazing affluence talked about by Herodotus, frequented by Helen of Troy along with Paris, her lover. That legendary Egyptian city however was buried under the sea some 1,200 years ago when it forever disappeared into the Mediterranean. It is widely believed that Heracleion served as the main port of entry to Egypt for all ships emanating from the Greek world.
Lo and behold the year 2000 when it was rediscovered by archaeologist Franck Goddio along with the IEASM (European Institute for Underwater Archaeology). Prior to that, no evidence of Thonis-Heracleion had ever surfaced (the city was referred to as Thonis by Greeks). It was in 2001 that physical evidence of its lost grandeur surfaced, when a group led by the French marine archaeologist Goddio luckily chanced upon some relics that pointed them to one of the most astounding discoveries of the 21st century.
As the story goes, Goddio was on a mission searching for Napoleon’s warships from the 1798 Battle of the Nile. As fate would have it, the Frenchman came upon this much more astounding find. Goddio’s team has since teamed up forces with the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology as well as the Department of Antiquities of Egypt to produce a wealth of dazzling finds.
The archaeologists first had to do the yeoman’s job of reassembling enormous stone fragments on the seabed before they could bring them to the surface. Today these rare treasures are open to public view after more than a millennium obscured beneath the sea. Among the findings are huge statues of the god Hapi, the Egyptian goddess Isis, and a nameless Egyptian pharaoh, all in near pristine condition. Hundreds of smaller statues of Egyptian gods are also part of the discovery.
“The archaeological evidence is simply overwhelming,” exclaimed Professor and archeologist Sir Barry Cunliffe from the University of Oxford. “By lying untouched and protected by sand on the sea floor for centuries they are brilliantly preserved.”
The teams involved are now hopeful that they may come across sarcophagi in some of the outlying areas around the sunken city, something not entirely remote from happening.
An upbeat Goddio recently enthused, “We are just at the beginning of our research. We will probably have to continue working for the next 200 years for Thonis-Heracleion to be fully revealed and understood.”
See more photos from the archaeological find here.