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Ever since the legendary city of Heracleion was found by archaeologists who were diving for “French warships,” it’s been giving up its secrets of the ancient treasures it holds. And now, the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced that its found ancient treasures inside a newly discovered portion of the submerged city: Docks, boats, and a temple.
Named after Hercules, the ancient city of Heracleion was once thought to be just a myth, much like the legendary city of Atlantis. When it was originally discovered in 2000 in what’s known today as the Bay of Aboukir, the divers initially found a smallish Greek temple and the main temple. The ruins date back to about the 8th century B.C.E., while coins and ancient columns found date to “between 283 and 246” B.C.E. when King Ptolemy II reigned.
According to the report, the new team of divers found new ports that:
“Effectively extends their map of the ancient sunken city [of ‘by about two-thirds of a mile’ and they have also added to their mapping of Canopus, a second submerged city close to Heracleion. What’s more, one of the scores of ancient ships at the site from the fourth century BC was found to contain ‘crockery, coins and jewelry in one now fully-excavated vessel.'”
Originally known as Thonis to Egyptians, a catastrophe made the city “slide into the sea.” The city sat submerged under at least 150 feet of water for about 1,200 years at what was known as the mouth of the River Nile’s delta, where a river opens into the sea.
Legend has it that Cleopatra was inaugurated there and that Hercules visited the city.
Researchers believe that the catastrophe happened as a result of a couple of factors, the first being called liquefaction, which is a weird effect that makes solid ground essentially turn into a liquid. The second factor was likely flooding of the city – mixed with its weight was too much on the clay, and it sank after the flood.
One of the initial dives after the city was discovered found various Egyptian treasures in the main temple called Amun-Gerb. They included:
“Dozens of sarcophagi, giant statues of pharaohs, a sphinx and hundreds of god and goddess statues, 6 ancient ships, 700 anchors and gold coins and weights made from bronze and stone.”
In the city of Canopus, the divers found jewelry such as earrings and rings that date to between 305 and 30 B.C.E., which lands between the Ptolemaic dynasty and Byzantine Empire.
According to Frank Goddio, the director of the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology, he and his team found that the city was a large hub for international trading, which helped the city and its inhabitants prosper. He wrote that their excavations have found other treasures such as bronze statuettes, and that they found a network of canals that connected to a “grand canal” north of “the temple to Herakles” that “flowed through the city from east to west and connected the port basins with a late to the west.”
One of the really interesting things about the divers initially finding the city is that before they did, there was nothing to indicate it ever existed, or that people even knew it did, except for a few ancient texts from a 5th century B.C.E. Greek historian, as well as inscriptions other archaeologist teams found on land. Reportedly Herodotus, the historian, spoke of Helen and her lover visiting Heracleion, among other details.
If archaeologists found a legendary city like Heracleion, one which no one really knew about until they did find it, it makes you wonder if they’ll find Atlantis if they look hard enough.
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Featured image via Frank Goddio