Ever wonder why what used to be no longer is? I know I do. It is exciting to learn about what was once lost and is now found. Thonis-Heracleion is one such wonder.
Thonis-Heracleion was named by the Egyptians (Thonis) and the Greeks (Heraceleion). At one-point Thonis-Heracleion was the biggest port in Egypt located at the mouth of the Nile. It was the largest in the Mediterranean prior to the founding of Alexandria in 331 BCE and was critical for trade. Without warning it along with Canopus flooded and disappeared.
A mere fifteen miles from present-day Alexandria, Thonis-Heracleion was a viable port for hundreds of years. Thonis-Heracleion connected via channels to Naukratis and Canopus. Both are further up the Nile and are also important to trade and distribution. It is believed to have been dropped into the sea because of an earthquake or other tectonic activity and then drown by tsunami waves. Much of the literature surrounding that port was also lost when this occurred.
Sightings regarding Thonis-Heracleion began in the 1930s and have continued into today. Several hypotheses were floated and many maps were sketched to depict the ancient topography. Side scanning sonars were deployed along with a nuclear magnetic resonance magnetometer to attempt to establish submerged buildings or other large objects. By identifying fault lines what was believed to be Thonis-Heracleion was detected in 2000 and Canopus in 1999.
A Greek funerary area was found near the entrance of a canal on the northeast portion of what was suspected to be the submerged city. This is called a tumulus and was approximately 197 feet long and 26 feet wide. Divers found evidence of burned materials and hypothecated that many incredible ceremonies were held there. They also collected wicker baskets brimming with doum fruit and grape seeds and African palm tree. All are believed to be from tombs.
Building fragments and giant statues of Cleopatra III/Isis and two of Osiris encrusted with semi-precious stones were hoisted from the seabed along with gems, anchors, Hellenic and Egyptian helmets, goblets, Cypriot statues, ritual pails, incense burners, perfume bottles, smaller figurines, and numerous smaller limestone animal sarcophagi onto the deck of the research vessel, Princess Duda. Amun-Gerb, a temple to the god of the Egyptians was found amazingly preserved without damage. These hieroglyphics go back to the fourth century BC and are proof positive of taxation policies in Egypt. Each was logged and photographed. All give us a rather fascinating story about these cities that vanished.
This is very much an ongoing excavation. Please stay tuned for updates.
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