New “treasures and secrets” have been revealed at the site of a sunken temple off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) announced in a news release Tuesday.
An underwater archaeological team, led by French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio, has made further discoveries at the site of a temple to god Amun in the ancient port city of Thonis-Heracleion in the Bay of Aboukir, the institute said.
The team investigated the city’s south canal, where huge blocks of stone from the ancient temple collapsed “during a cataclysmic event dated to the mid-second century BC,” the institute said.
The temple to god Amun was where pharaohs came “to receive the titles of their power as universal kings from the supreme god of the ancient Egyptian pantheon,” it said.
“Precious objects belonging to the temple treasury have been unearthed, such as silver ritual instruments, gold jewelry and fragile alabaster containers for perfumes or unguents,” IEASM said. “They bear witness to the wealth of this sanctuary and the piety of the former inhabitants of the port city.”
The archaeological excavations, conducted jointly by Goddio’s team and the Department of Underwater Archaeology of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Egypt, revealed underground structures “supported by very well-preserved wooden posts and beams dating from the 5th century BC,” the institute said.
“It is extremely moving to discover such delicate objects, which survived intact despite the violence and magnitude of the cataclysm,” said Goddio, who is president of IEASM and director of excavations.
The discoveries were made possible thanks to the development and use of new geophysical prospecting technologies that can detect cavities and objects “buried under layers of clay several meters thick,” the institute said.
Relics from Greek presence, too
East of the Amun temple, a Greek sanctuary devoted to Aphrodite was discovered containing bronze and ceramic objects.
“This illustrates that Greeks who were allowed to trade and settle in the city during the time of the Pharaohs of the Saïte dynasty (664 – 525 BC) had their sanctuaries to their own gods,” the institute said.
The discoveries of Greek weapons also reveal the presence of Greek mercenaries in the area, IEASM said. “They were defending the access to the Kingdom at the mouth of the Canopic Branch of the Nile. This branch was the largest and the best navigable one in antiquity.”
The remains of Thonis-Heracleion are now located under the sea, 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) from the present coast of Egypt, IEASM said. The city was for centuries Egypt’s largest port on the Mediterranean before the founding of Alexandria by Alexander the Great in 331 BC.
“Rising sea levels and earthquakes followed by tidal waves triggering land liquefaction events, caused a 110 square kilometer portion of the Nile delta to totally disappear under the sea, taking with it the city of Thonis-Heracleion,” the institute said.
The city was discovered by the IEASM in 2000.