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No.45 July 2001

Monthly Newsletter

Sunken Treasures of Egypt

Sunken TreasureColossal statues, sunken ships, gold coins and jewellery are among the treasures newly uncovered by a team of marine archaeologists in the submerged city of Heracleion off the northern coast of Egyptian. (Not to be confused with Heraklion, the capitol of Crete.)

The team, led by French expert Franck Goddio, have been working on the site for over a year, 6.5 km from the Bay of Aboukir, and have been documenting and mapping the antiquities with the help of advanced electronic technology. They believe Heracleion, was destroyed by an earthquake or some other such sudden catastrophic event, which would explain why none of the artefacts found dates back to later than the first century BC.Sunken Treasure

Among the most remarkable findings is an intact black granite stele (inscribed slab) almost identical to one found in 1899 that now reposes in Cairo's Egyptian Museum. Both feature an edict of Pharaoh Nektanebos the First (378-362 BC) imposing a 10 per cent levy on Greek goods in favour of a temple to the goddess Neith. Nektanebos was the first Pharaoh of the thirtieth dynasty. This last Egyptian dynasty was replaced by the Ptolemaic line, who succeeded Alexander the Great. The edict, found more than a century ago, orders the stele to be erected in the town of Naukratis.

That discovered by Goddio says it should be installed at "Heracleion-Thonis". The perfectly preserved stele 195 cm high, thus bolsters the case for identifying the ruined city as Egypt's Heracleion, -more the stuff of legend than history. When writing of the exploits of Heracles, the Greek historian Diodor mentions Heracleion: once the waters of the Nile swelled into such a vast flood that all the dykes were breached. Heracles quickly stopped up the gap and guided the river back into its bed. In gratitude the local people built him a temple and called the town Heracleion.

Sunken TreasureGoddio's team has also found three colossal pink granite statues, one of Hpi, the Nile God of Flooding, the others of an unidentified pharaoh and a queen. They lay on the seabed near the remains of some thick walls and had obviously broken when they fell. The walls enclose a monumental monolithic shrine (naos) made of pink granite, with hieroglyphics from the Ptolemaic era. This shows that it was the sanctuary in a temple to the supreme god Amun, apparently the great temple of Heracleion. The Greeks associated Amun (or Amon) with their God Zeus and his son Khonsu with Heracles (Lat. Hercules).
A most significant find is the discovery of a harbour basin with, so far, 10 antique ship- wrecks, which means it is at last possible to locate the site of Heracleion port.

Trip to York

Our planned trip to Towton Battlefield site in August has had to be put on hold for this year. This is due to the prevailing problems with ‘Foot & Mouth’. The safe alternative, therefore, is a trip to York, which will include a guided tour around the city. Peter Heathering, who is also a member of the Towton Society has arranged the tour which will take place in the morning. This will leave us free in the afternoon to do what ever we want.

The date of the trip is set for Sunday 5th August and the price will be around 10 (half price for children). If you want to be included, please fill out the reply sheet and give it or send it to one of the committee memebers.

Next Meeting

Wednesday 4th July at the BP Centre (Scout HQ) in Greenough Street, at 7.30 pm as usual. This month’s speaker is Mark Fletcher from Matrix Archaeology who will be talking on the current developments at Lathom House near Ormskirk.(as reported in Newsletter No.37). Mark is also be looking at Winstanley Hall which has recently been in the news due to its sale for private development. Mark will have the latest news on this 16th century building.
Hope to see you at the meeting -B.A