Sunken Treasures of Egypt
Colossal 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.
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.
Goddio's team has also found three colossal pink granite statues, one of
Hâpi, 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.
Wednesday 4th July at the BP Centre (Scout HQ) in Greenough Street, at 7.30 pm as
usual. This months 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