Thonis-Heracleion (the Egyptian and Greek names of the city) existed as a myth for many years. Some believed it to have been a dynastic city, festooned with temples: ancient Egypt’s gateway to the Mediterranean. Then after a trifecta of natural catastrophes, it sunk into the ocean around 8th century AD. At least, that was the myth. No one had ever found a trace of physical evidence proving the city’s existence. Historians could only go on archaeological inscriptions and references made by the Greek historian Herodotus.
Then, in the year 2000, a scientific expedition uncovered ruins from the city miles from the coastline near the western part of Aboukir Bay. Excavations from the site revealed stunning artifacts that suggest this mythical city was very much real and flourished between the 6th to the 4th century BC. Discoveries included colossal statues, inscriptions and architectural elements, jewelry and coins, ritual objects and ceramics. The city was an opulent maritime treasure connected by canals.
Take a closer look below at the incredible discoveries of this mysterious sunken city….
A colossal statue of red granite (5.4 m) representing the god Hapy, symbol of abundance and fertility and god of the Nile flood which stood in front of the temple of Heracleion. photo: Christoph Gerigk
Colossal red granite statue of a Ptolemaic queen, 4.9 m high and weighing 4 tons, found close to the great temple of sunken Heracleion. photo: Christoph Gerigk
Intact engraved Thonis-Heracleion stele of 1.90 m height, commissioned by Nectanebo I (378-362 BC) and almost identical to the Naukratis stele in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. photo: Christoph Gerigk
Dark stone statue of a 3rd century Ptolemaic queen, very probably Cleopatra II or Cleopatra III, wearing the tunic of the goddess Isis. photo: Christoph Gerigk
Gold plaque (11 x 5 cm) engraved with a Greek text of five and a half lines found during preliminary exploration of the southern sector of Heracleion. It is an example of the plaques added to foundation deposits as dedications from donators, here king, Ptolemy III (246–222 BC), who commissioned the building. photo: Christoph Gerigk
Colossal red granite statue of a pharaoh of over 5 metres height, weighing 5.5 tons, and shattered into 5 fragments. photo: Christoph Gerigk
Aerial view of the colossal triad of 5-metre high red granite statues of a pharaoh, his queen and the god Hapy, dating from the 4th century BC, which stood in front of the great temple of Heracleion. They are placed on a pontoon barge together with the 17 fragments of an over 5-metre high 2nd century BC red granite stele in reassembly; the workers on the pontoon provide a notion of the dimensions of these objects. photo: Christoph Gerigk
Materials provided by the Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation.