Lost Pharaonic cities of the deep Mythology comes to life under the
3rd June 2000
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt, June 3
Archaeologists scouring the Mediterranean seabed announced Saturday
that they have found the 2,500-year-old ruins of submerged Pharaonic
cities that until now were known only through Greek tragedies, travelogues
AMONG THE STUNNING discoveries at the sites - where the cities of Herakleion,
Canopus and Menouthis once stood - are remarkably preserved houses,
temples, port infrastructure and colossal statues that stand testimony
to the citizens' luxuriant lifestyle, which some travelers had described
This is the first time that historians have found physical evidence
of the existence of the lost cities, which were famous not only for
their riches and arts, but also for numerous temples dedicated to the
gods Isis, Serapis and Osiris, making the region an important pilgrimage
destination for various cults.
Herakleion, once a customs port where commerce flourished until the
founding of Alexandria by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C., was found
in its entirety.
"We have an intact city, frozen in time," French archaeologist Franck
Goddio, who led the international team in the search, told The Associated
The team worked for two years off this city on Egypt's northern coast
in waters 20 to 30 feet deep, using modern technology including the
use of magnetic waves to map the area.
"It is the most exciting find in the history of marine archaeology.
It has shown that land is not enough for Egyptian antiquities," said
Gaballa Ali Gaballa, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities,
Egypt's top archaeology body.
At a news conference, underwater television footage of the site was
shown to reporters. Some of the treasure was also on display - a basalt
head of a pharaoh, a bust of the curly-haired and bearded god Serapis
and a life-size headless black granite statue of the goddess Isis, sculpted
as if wearing a diaphanous cloth held together by knots at her breast.
"At long last, these lost cities of Menouthis and Herakleion have been
located," Gaballa said.
He said that the cities - probably built during the waning days of the
pharaohs in the 7th or 6th centuries B.C. - will be left as they are
in the sea and that only smaller pieces will be retrieved for museums.
French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio looks up at the 1200-year-old
statue of the Greek Goddess Isis after it was pulled from the sea by
his team, June 3. Archaeologists showed off relics retrieved from the
nearly complete ruins of ancient cities they said they had discovered
on the seabed off the Egyptian coast. (Aladin Abdel Naby/Reuters)
Numerous ancient texts speak of the importance of the region and the
cities, before they were covered over by the sea, probably after an
Greek historian Herodotus, who visited Egypt in 450 B.C., wrote about
Herakleion and its temple dedicated to Hercules. The sites were also
named in Greek tragedies - Greek mythology tells the story of Menelaos,
king of Spartans, who stopped in Herakleion during his return from Troy
with Helena. His helmsman, Canopus, was bitten by a viper and was subsequently
transformed into a god. Canopus and his wife, Menouthis, were immortalized
by two cities that bore their names.
Authors such as Strabo describe the location of the cities and their
rich lifestyle, while others, such as Seneca, condemn their moral corruption.
'It is the most exciting find in the history of marine archaeology.'
GABALLA ALI GABALLA
Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities Herakleion lost its economic
importance after the building of Alexandria. It was probably destroyed
by an earthquake, indicated by the position of collapsed columns and
walls. They had all fallen systematically in one direction, said Amos
Nur, a geophysicist at Stanford University who did the magnetic mapping
of the area.
The sea encroached on the land after the quake, and ruins of Herakleion
are now about four miles from land in the Bay of Abu Qir. The sea also
engulfed Canopus and Menouthis.
The destruction most likely happened in the 7th or 8th centuries. Divers
found Islamic and Byzantine coins and jewelry from that period, but
none more recent.
Mysteries, UFOs, etc.
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