A lost city and vital port known as Heracleion to the ancient Greeks and Thonis to ancient Egyptians was thought to be nothing but a memory until a team from the European Institute for Underwater Archeology (IEASM) discovered the mystical city submerged in the Mediterranean Sea.
Traces of Thonis-Heracleion were found four miles off the coast of Egypt, 30 feet below the Aboukir Bay in 2000. The team, under French underwater archaeologist Dr. Frank Goddio’s direction, discovered many ruins, among them a monolithic chapel, a giant red granite statue of the god Hapi and the largest known concentration of ancient ships. It was the chapel that tipped off Goddio that it was in fact the lost city.
“The archaeological evidence is simply overwhelming,” says Sir Barry Cunliffe, eminent archaeologist at Oxford University in a release. “By lying untouched and protected by sand on the seafloor for centuries they are brilliantly preserved.”
Goddio and IEASM’s 13-year excavation was documented in “Egypt’s Sunken City – A Legend Is Revealed,” a special scheduled to air on French and German TV network Channel Arte on May 11.
A panel of experts weighed in on the team’s finds at a conference at Oxford University earlier this year, but they are still unclear on how exactly the ancient city sunk. Goddio’s team believes liquefaction of the soil at spots near the Aboukir Bay due to the pressure of large buildings on the clay and water could have caused the submergence.
The team also believes it could have been due to an “unusually high flood” or an earthquake either in combination with liquefaction or by itself that could have caused the city to sink.
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