In a groundbreaking discovery, archaeologists unearthed a trove of treasures from the submerged city of Heracleion, once Egypt’s largest port on the Mediterranean. This ancient city, often compared to the mythical Atlantis, was rediscovered in 2000 by French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team.
Heracleion, founded around the 8th century BC, was a bustling port city before Alexandria’s establishment by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. It served as the obligatory port of entry for all ships arriving from the Greek world.
Underwater archaeology has really advanced in recent years, particularly in the Nile Delta – quite an amazing find.
— William Newton ن (@wbdnewton) September 21, 2023
However, a series of natural disasters, likely earthquakes and tsunamis, led to its complete submersion into the Mediterranean around the 8th century AD. Today, the remains of this once-thriving city lie deep under the sea, approximately four miles off the present Egyptian coast.
The recent excavation conducted in July 2023 revealed an array of precious artifacts dating back to the 5th century BC. Among the finds were gold jewelry, silver dishes, and a peculiar pouring device shaped like a duck.
A Djed pillar, an Egyptian symbol of stability made from the blue stone lapis lazuli, was also retrieved. These discoveries bear witness to the wealth and religious significance of Heracleion, as described by Goddio.
The excavation also uncovered the remains of a great temple dedicated to Amun, the Egyptian god of the air, located in the city’s south canal.
The temple collapsed during a cataclysmic event around the mid-second century BC, burying silver ritual instruments, gold jewelry, and delicate alabaster containers likely used for perfumes.
In addition to the Amun temple, archaeologists discovered a Greek sanctuary devoted to Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love and beauty.
Cleopatra's Lion Underwater Palace | Sunken City | Alexandria, Egypt pic.twitter.com/0sMyF5Jdhl
— JAI (@visionsfromafar) August 29, 2023
This sanctuary yielded imported bronze and ceramic objects, including an unusual object shaped like a duck, surrounded by ceramic pots and shields.
The presence of Greek sanctuaries and weapons in Heracleion suggests that Greeks were allowed to trade and settle in the city during the Saïte dynasty (664 – 525 BC).
The use of new geophysical prospecting technologies has enabled archaeologists to detect cavities and objects buried under several meters of clay, leading to more discoveries. Among these was a well-preserved underground structure supported by wooden posts and beams dating from the 5th century BC.
While the existence of Heracleion is well-documented, the same cannot be said for Atlantis, the mythical city said to have been destroyed and submerged under the Atlantic Ocean. Despite the comparisons, many doubt that Atlantis ever existed.
However, the ongoing exploration of Heracleion continues to reveal fascinating insights into this real-life sunken city, its inhabitants, and their rich cultural heritage.