below Lost with the city of Thonis-Heracleion, this v otive boat and statuette of Osiris were used in the religious ceremonies of the city at the end of La te Egyptian period or early Ptolemaic period, c.4th–2nd c entury BC.
Thonis-Heracleion Finding a legendary port under the sea Once gatekeeper to Egypt’s interior, Thonis-Heracleion lay forgotten beneath the sea several miles off the Egyptian coast. The legendary city, visited by Helen of Troy as she eloped with Paris, enjoyed wealth and prestige before vanishing from the face of the earth.
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: Christoph images all
Perhaps it was the tsunami in the 4th century AD or the great earthquake in the 8th century AD that hit the shores of North Africa, or perhaps the gradual erosion of the coastline. More probably, it was a combination of all three. But about 1,200 years ago, one of the greatest ports on the Mediterranean coast slipped beneath the waves. The entire city, with its monumental architecture, its colossal stone statues, and all the detritus of a bustling commercial hub, was lost to the sea, along with its name.
Until, that is, Franck Goddio and his team from the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM), with funding from the Hilti Foundation, surveyed the area at the mouth of the Nile.
The archaeologists noticed traces of a submerged landscape about 6.5km (4 miles) off the Egyptian shore. What they had found was Thonis-Heracleion, a longforgotten emporium that once controlled the maritime trade entering and leaving Egypt. And in doing so, they also solved an ancient mystery: historical sources mention two cities on this westernmost mouth of the Nile near the city of Canopus, where the great river enters the
Mediterranean Sea: Thonis and Heracleion. In fact, they are one and the same.
Finding the city In 2000, after several years of geophysical survey researching the ancient great port of Alexandria – Portus Magnus, home of the Pharos Lighthouse, one of the Seven Wonders of the World – the IEASM team picked up signals on their equipment a little further out in the Bay of Aboukir. These indicated strong magnetic disturbances in the centre of the eastern part of the submerged Canopic landscape: long lines of strong magnetic gradient