Heracleion: A City Discovered Under Water After 1500 Years.
Heracleion: A City Discovered Under Water After 1500 Years, Heracleion, a much prosperous and a known city had been engulfed underwater 1500 years ago. This grand city had also been mentioned by the Greek writer Herodotus, the 5th-century BC historian. He had told a wonderful tale of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world, who had launched a thousand ships, travelled to Heracleion, then a port of ‘great wealth’, with her glamorous Trojan lover, Paris.
But until 2001, there had been no evidence of the city from this classical tale. But when a group led by French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio stumbled upon some relics, it led them to one of the greatest finds of the 21st century, a city underwater. The discovery took place when Goddio had been in search of Napoleon’s warships from the 1798 Battle of the Nile, when he had been defeated by Nelson in these very waters, but to his surprise, he stumbled upon this magnificent discovery. Goddio’s team has since been joined by the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology and the Department of Antiquities of Egypt to produce a wealth of dazzling finds.
The discoveries include the colossal statues of the Egyptian goddess Isis, the god Hapi, and an unidentified Egyptian pharaoh, all preserved in excellent condition by their muddy burial shroud. Along with these 16ft statues there are hundreds of smaller statues of Egyptian gods, among them the figures that guarded the temple where Cleopatra who was inaugurated as Queen of the Nile. Dozens of sarcophagi have also been found, containing the bodies of mummified animals sacrificed to Amun-Gereb, the supreme god of the Egyptians. Many amulets, or religious charms, have been unearthed, too, showing gods such as Isis, Osiris and Horus. These had been created not only for Egyptians but also for visiting traders who used to incorporate them into their religion or kept them as trinkets.
Heracleion can now be added to the number as Egypt’s most important port during the time of the later pharaohs. The importance of Heracleion has further been seen by the discovery of 64 ships, the largest number of ancient vessels ever found in one place and a fascinating 700 anchors. The city had been a major motorway junction. It had a naturally navigable channel next to its ancient harbor and a further artificial channel appears to had been dug to accelerate trade.
Some larger pieces brought to the surface were huge 16-foot statues, most likely gods. Near the larger statues the archaeologists found smaller statues of what could be considered minor gods. There have also been several stone slabs found in the ocean. Some of the slabs have ancient Greek and Egyptian writing on them. They have been brought to the surface to be studied in more detail.
Some of the most amazing artifacts found were the dozens of sarcophagi made from limestone. The archaeologists and researchers believe there could still be mummified remains of animals in them. The people generally used mummified animals to appease the gods.
One of the directors on the diving team, Dr. Damian Robinson, said that he and the team are trying to find out which gods belonged to which temples in the sunken city. They hope to find out more information about the gods. He also said that one of the more interesting discoveries on the site would have to be all of the ancient ships that litter the sea floor. He said that they have found nearly 700 anchors so far.
The very name of the city had been taken from the most famous of Greek heroes, Heracles aka Hercules whose 12 labors had killed the Hydra and had captured Cerberus, the multi-headed hellhound that guarded the gates of the Underworld who had captivated the ancient world. Heraklion, Crete’s capital and largest city, had also been named after Heracles, as was Herculaneum, the ancient Roman town that had been buried under ash when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. When Heracleion had faded in importance in the later classical period, its neighboring city of Alexandria had become the capital of Egypt in 312BC.
Since the first photos had been taken, there has been a team of researchers working on a three-dimensional model of the entire city to get a better understanding of it. With the 3D model researchers have figured out that at the heart of the city was a large temple dedicated to the god Amun-Gereb. This was the supreme god of the Egyptians at the time. Out from the temple was a vast number of canals and channels, which is why the city became so wealthy and important. These canals proved to be an important port in the Mediterranean.
The discovery of Heracleion will now add depth and detail to our knowledge of the ancient world, because among the discoveries, there are perfectly preserved steles (inscribed pillars) decorated with hieroglyphics. Once translated, they will reveal much about the religious and political life in this corner of ancient Egypt. A similar inscription on the Rosetta stone had been discovered in the Nile Delta town of Rosetta in 1799 by a French soldier, and now preserved in the British Museum, it had cracked the code of hieroglyphics in the first place.
And like the Rosetta stone, those steles found beneath the waters of Aboukir Bay are inscribed in Greek and Egyptian, too. The possibility of discovery of many more archaeological gems at Heracleion has now been opened.
Evidence shows that Heracleion slipped into its watery grave sometime in the 6th or 7th century AD. The discovery of this splendid city in Egypt has been thrilling and mesmerizing.