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Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Alexandria: The Sunken City
years ago the ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion disappeared beneath the
Mediterranean. Founded around 8th century BC, well before the foundation of
Alexandria in 331 BC, it is believed Heracleion served as the obligatory port
of entry to Egypt for all ships coming from the Greek world.
to its discovery in 2000 by archaeologist Franck Goddio and the IEASM (European
Institute for Underwater Archaeology), no race of Thonis-Heracleion had been
found (the city was known to the Greeks as Thonis). Its name was almost razed
from the memory of mankind, only preserved in ancient classic texts and rare inscriptions
found on land by archaeologists.With
his unique survey-based approach utilising sophisticated technical equipment,
Franck Goddio and his team from the IEASM were able to locate, map and excavate
parts of the city of Thonis-Heracleion, which lies 6.5 kilometres off today’s
coastline about 150 feet underwater. The city is located within an overall
research area of 11 by 15 kilometres in the western part of Aboukir Bay.
to date include:
The remains of more than 64 ships buried in the thick clay and sand that covers
the sea bed
Gold coins and weights made from bronze and stone
Giant 16-ft statues along with hundreds of smaller statues of minor gods
Slabs of stone inscribed in both ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian
Dozens of small limestone sarcophagi believed to have once contained mummified
Over 700 ancient anchors for ships
suggests that the site was affected by geological and cataclysmic phenomena.
The slow movement of subsidence of the soil affected this part of the
south-eastern basin of the Mediterranean. The rise in sea level also
contributed significantly to the submergence of the land. The IEASM made
geological observations that brought these phenomena to light by discovering
seismic effects in the underlying geology.
of the site also suggests liquefaction of the soil. These localized phenomena
can be triggered by the action of great pressure on soil with a high clay and
water content. The pressure from large buildings, combined with an overload of
weight due to an unusually high flood or a tidal wave, can dramatically
compress the soil and force the expulsion of water contained within the
structure of the clay. The clay quickly loses volume, which creates sudden
subsidence. An earthquake can also cause such a phenomenon. These factors,
whether occurring together or independently, may have caused significant
destruction and explain the submergence of Thonis-Heracleion.