When people think of archaeology, they typically think of people labouring in the hot sun, or maybe underground. But those excavating the ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion have exchanged their sunblock for scuba gear.
According to science writer Laura Geggel, the lost city was first discovered off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt in 2000, and has been the subject of regular excavations ever since. Despite the tough working conditions, the drowned city routinely reveals wonders, including mostly recently the remains of a temple, gold jewellery, coins and the missing piece of a ceremonial boat.
Anne-Sophie von Bomhard writes in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology about some of the more fascinating discoveries from Heracleion.
The city, named for the ancient Greek hero Heracles, spanned a period of Egyptian history before and during Greek influence.
Its Egyptian name was Thonis and the city is frequently referred to as Thonis-Heracleion. Intricate ceramics have been found, including a glazed, highly realistic-looking cobra.
Some seemingly mundane discoveries, such as walls, have provided some of the most telling information. Combined with studies of sediments, the walls reveal that the city apparently consisted of different districts, separated by waterways. One massive temple sat along the banks of a massive waterway that archaeologists have dubbed “The Grand Canal.” The Grand Canal connected a port/harbour to a large natural lake, sort of like modern-day Seattle.
Within the canal and the ports, shipwrecks and maritime artifacts have been discovered.
Greek historian Herodotus visited Egypt in 450BC and wrote of unusual river boats on the Nile in his narrative history, titled Historia.
For centuries, scholars had searched for archaeological evidence to support his description of such ships mentioned in twenty-three lines.
A wreck has now been found to prove that Herodotus’ account was true. Dr Damian Robinson, director of Oxford University’s centre for maritime archeology said that a “fabulously preserved” wreck has been found around the sunken port city of Thonis-Heracleion.
“It wasn’t until we discovered this wreck that we realised Herodotus was right,” said Dr Robinson said. “What Herodotus described was what we were looking at.
”In his account, Herodotus had witnessed the construction of a baris where builders “cut planks two cubits long [around a metre] and arrange them like bricks”.Herodotus wrote: “On the strong and long tenons [pieces of wood] they insert two-cubit planks. When they have built their ship in this way, they stretch beams over them… They obturate the seams from within with papyrus. There is one rudder, passing through a hole in the keel. The mast is of acacia and the sails of papyrus…”
Archaeologists have unveiled a restored colossal statue of Amenhotep III that was toppled in an earthquake more than 3,000 years ago at Egypt’s famed temple city of Luxor.
The statue that showed the pharaoh in a striding attitude was re-erected at the northern gate of the king’s funerary temple on the west bank of the Nile.
The temple is already famous for its existing 3,400-year-old Memnon colossi – twin statues of Amenhotep III whose reign archaeologists say marked the political and cultural zenith of ancient Egyptian civilisation.
The 12.92-metre statue stands west of an existing effigy of the king, also depicting him walking, which was unveiled in March.
“These are up to now the highest standing effigies of an Egyptian king in striding attitude,” said German-Armenian archaeologist Hourig Sourouzian, who heads the project to conserve the temple.
The world-famous twin Memnon colossi are 21 metres tall but show the pharaoh seated.
The restored statue now stands again for the first time since its collapse 3,200 years ago, Mr Sourouzian said.
Consisting of 89 large pieces and numerous small fragments and reassembled since November, the monolith weighs 110 tonnes.
It had lain broken in pieces after the earthquake in 1200 BC, Mr Sourouzian said.