Category Archives: EGYPT

How Thonis-Heracleion resurfaced after 1,000 years underwater

How Thonis-Heracleion resurfaced after 1,000 years underwater

The Egyptian city of Thonis-Heracleion was the main port of entry to the Mediterranean Sea between the eighth century BCE and the fourth century BCE. By the eighth century CE, what remained of the city sank into the sea and eventually became a distant memory. Without any trace, except for a few references in historical writings, the forgotten ruins rested undisturbed until the 21st century.

In 2000, the European Institute of Maritime Archaeology, led by renowned archaeologist Franck Goddio, finally discovered the city’s treasures in the depths of the Abu Qir Bay.

For thirteen years, Goddio and his team methodically excavated and explored the sunken city. They also found more than 64 shipwrecks and 700 anchors in the Abu Qir Bay.

This red granite statue of a pharaoh is over 5 meters and 5.5 tons.

The high number of maritime relics led researchers to believe that Heracleion was a mandatory port of entry for trade between the Nile and the Mediterranean.

This is also supported by the discovery of weights from Athens, which would have been used to make important measurements of goods. Never before had such weights been found among archaeological sites in Egypt.

History of Thonis-Heracleion

For more than four centuries until the foundation of Alexandria in 331 BCE, Thonis reigned supreme over the Canopic portion of the Nile River. The Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily wrote about Thonis-Heracleion in his great work, Bibliotheca Historica, between 60 BCE – 30 BCE.

Sometime in the fifth century BCE, Herodotus wrote that the Greek god and hero, Heracles, actually first stepped foot onto Egypt at this port city. Thus, the Greeks gave Thonis the name Heracleion and built a grand temple dedicated to him. Herodotus also said Paris and Helen of Troy visited the port city.

Head of the statue of Ptolemaic queen presumed to be Cleopatra II or III. 3rd century.

Religious Center of Worship

There are commonalities in the accounts of the old historians. Most significant of these is that the city boasted a huge temple constructed to honor the heroic god Heracles, hence the name, Heracleion.

The city was both a bustling trade port and a religious center of worship. Sixteen-foot stone sculptures and sarcophagi believed to contain mummified animals were discovered. This reinforces the idea that this divine city was a prominent religious site. Additionally, the annual Mysteries of Osiris celebration took place at the temple. The three large statues pictured below are a pharaoh, his queen, and the god Hapy, from left to right. They stood at the entrance to the temple.

The Egyptians had their own version of Heracles and, so, shared this godlike hero. Herodotus identifies Heracles with the Egyptian god Shu. Still, others claim Sesotris was the forerunner of the Greek hero. In all cases, this mythical god-hero signified strength.

It seems to reflect the belief by both the Egyptians and the Greeks that they were strong, proud people, as unconquerable as the mighty Hercules himself. What better way to signify Heracleion’s strength than to essentially deem it the seat of a god? And so it was that their beloved Heracles became the focal point of the thriving port city and center of trade.

Port Business

In addition to serving as a place of worship, many official business transactions took place here. Ships from various parts of the ancient world dropped their anchors and unloaded their merchandise before returning home with a fresh supply of Egyptian goods to take back with them. Officials collected taxes and fees, and a huge amount of value traded hands. The Nile was also easily defensible from this location.

Goddio with stele, 1.9 meters high, commissioned by Nectanebo (378-362BC)

The Demise of the Temple City

Thonis-Heracleion suffered from a flaw that undermined its overall strength. The Egyptians built the city upon a portion of the Nile delta. The region was particularly susceptible to subsidence, flooding, a rising sea level, and earthquakes that had the ability to trigger enormous tidal waves. As a result, these natural circumstances waged a centuries-long battle with the port.

Beginning in the second century BCE, the splendid city started sinking into the depths of the sea. Some have theorized that flooding and the excessive weight of the city contributed to its sinking.

The structures and religious statuary of which the Egyptians were so proud literally equaled millions upon millions of pounds. Additionally, the land under which those structures resided was in a perpetual state of flux due to the flooding common in the delta.

End of a City and Its Symbolism

As civilization evolved and the first millennium of the Common Era came and went, humanity approached the dawn of the Age of Reason when science and monotheism countered the age of gods and mythical heroes. It seems the sinking of this ancient Egyptian port and temple serves as a perfect metaphor for the sunset of mankind’s devotion to its old gods and reverence for ancient mythology.

The second sphinx buried in sand in Egypt Giza plateau, pyramid much older than believed, researchers

The second sphinx buried in sand in Egypt Giza plateau, pyramid much older than believed, researchers

It is one of the most prominent structures in the world and for decades has been the Sphinx – the legendary and giant statue of what seems to be a lion with a human face. It has captured the imaginations of archaeologists, photographers, and visitors on the Giza plateau of Egypt.

But there could be a second Sphinx built around the same time as the one known to the world — but this Sphinx has been hidden for thousands of years in the sands of Giza.

Two British historians, Gerry Cannon and Malcolm Hutton are now suggesting this theory: Who says that unlike numerous examples of smaller Sphinx structures and illustrated depictions of Sphinxes found in Egypt, the Sphinx of Giza is a rarity in that it stands alone, according to a report by the Egypt Today online site.

Every other Sphinx dating from ancient Egypt has been part of a pair, believed to represent the “duality” of male and female, the report says — also representing the duality of the sun and moon.

Ancient Egyptians believed that at the end of every day the sun traveled underground and reemerged as the moon, with a Sphinx protecting each end of the journey.

“Every time we have to deal with the solar cult, we should discuss of one lion and one lioness facing each other, posing parallel to each other or sitting in a back-to-back position,” said Egyptologist Bassam el-Shammaa, whose 2011 ebook, Quest for the Truth: Discovering The Second Sphinx forms the basis for the current Cannon and Hutton theory.

Cannon and Hutton also say that the Sphinx is much older than the current estimated age of approximately 4,600 years.

In fact, rather than the generally accepted belief that the Sphinx was constructed sometime between 2,700 B.C. and 2,500 B.C., though the exact date has not been pinpointed, Cannon and Hutton say that the structure could not have been built at that time.

In fact, they place the construction of the Sphinx prior to Earth’s most recent Ice Age — sometime earlier than 10,000 B.C. If their theory is correct, the Sphinx would be about eight millennia older than experts currently believe.

“The Sphinx had to have been carved when there was no sand there. You can’t carve a rock when it’s under the sand,” Cannon told the British Express newspaper. “When it was not under the sand was about 12,000 years ago and the Egyptians weren’t there.”

The researchers also say that the pyramids of Giza, which the Sphinx is apparently positioned to guard, would have been built at approximately the same time as the Sphinx — meaning that the ancient Egyptian civilization recorded by history was not the origin of the remarkable structures.

An earlier, prehistoric civilization that was perhaps wiped out by the ice age, must have built the Sphinx and pyramids, the pair of authors say.

Giant Egyptian Pyramids Hidden Beneath, buried by sands of time

Giant Egyptian Pyramids Hidden Beneath, buried by sands of time

Indiana Jones found success with little more than a bullwhip and a fedora. These days, however, if you want to make your mark as an archaeologist, a bit of space technology works wonders.

Satellites have helped locate 17 pyramids and 3,000 ancient settlements hidden underground in Egypt. More than 1,000 burial sites were also discovered thanks to infra-red technology capable of probing beneath the desert sands from 450 miles above the Earth.

Astounded researchers on the ground have already confirmed that two of the pyramids exist – and they believe there are thousands more unknown sites in the region.

satellite images revealed strange structures

NASA-funded archaeologist Sarah Parcak said: ‘I couldn’t believe we could locate so many sites. To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archaeologist.’ The finds are hugely significant. Until the latest discoveries there were thought to have been almost 140 pyramids across Egypt.

But experts have long argued that there must be many more that remain undiscovered, buried by the sands of time. Dr Parcak, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, analysed images from satellites equipped with cameras so powerful they can zoom in on objects less than three feet in diameter on the Earth’s surface.

Huge pyramids could be buried beneath the sand. 

Dr. Parcak told the BBC: ‘I could see the data as it was emerging, but for me, the “a-ha” moment was when I could step back and look at everything that we’d found.’

The mud bricks used by ancient Egyptians are much denser than the sand and soil that surrounds them, allowing the shapes of homes, temples, tombs and other structures built thousands of years ago to be seen by satellites orbiting 435miles above Earth to photograph the outlines of structures invisible to the human eye.

The cameras on the satellites are so powerful that they can precisely image objects on Earth that are less than one metre in diameter. The researchers’ findings are a major boost to the relatively new science of space archaeology.

Their most promising excavations are taking place in Tanis, the hiding place of the Ark of the Covenant in the 1981 Indiana Jones blockbuster Raiders of the Lost Ark, where they are uncovering a 3,000-year-old house.

Excitingly, the outline of the house exactly matches the shape seen on the satellite images.

Two pyramids at Saqqara – the burial ground for the ancient capital of Memphis – have already been confirmed by excavations and the site is being hailed as one of the most important in Egyptian archaeology. The oldest pyramids ever discovered were built in Saqqara around 2,600BC.

Archaeologist Dr Sarah Parcak points out the site of a buried pyramid on a satellite image

The camera’s high level of accuracy has impressed the Egyptian government, which now plans to use the technology to identify and protect its colossal heritage in the future.

Dr Parcak believes that there are many more buildings buried deeper than those already spotted, the most likely location being under the banks of the River Nile.

She said: ‘These are just the sites close to the surface. There are many thousands of additional sites that the Nile has covered over with silt.

‘This is just the beginning of this kind of work.’

She told the BBC: ‘It just shows us how easy it is to underestimate both the size and scale of past human settlements.

‘These are just the sites [close to] the surface. There are many thousands of additional sites that the Nile has covered over with silt. This is just the beginning of this kind of work.’

She said the technology could be used to monitor the looting of antiquities, as well as to engage young people around the world in science and help archaeologists in their quest to uncover the secrets of the past.

The archaeologist said, ‘We have to think bigger and that’s what the satellites allow us to do. Indiana Jones is old school. We’ve moved on from Indy, sorry Harrison Ford.’

Nabta Playa: The World’s First Astronomical Site Was Built in Africa and Is Older Than Stonehenge

Nabta Playa: The World’s First Astronomical Site Was Built in Africa and Is Older Than Stonehenge

Nabta Playa has been assessed by an inventory of Egyptian archeological sites in accordance with the UNESCO World Heritage Convention as having “theory solar and stellar alignments.”

This stone circle of 7,000 years has tracked the summer solstice and the arrival of the annual monsoon season. It’s the oldest known astronomical site on Earth

Ancient civilizations around the world constructed huge stone circles for thousands of years, aligning them with the sun and stars to identify the seasons. These early calendars foretold the coming of spring, summer, fall, and winter, helping civilizations track when to plant and harvest crops.

They also served as ceremonial sites, both for celebration and sacrifice.

These megaliths — large, prehistoric monuments made of stone — may seem mysterious in our modern era, when many people lack a connection with, or even view of, the stars.

Some even hold them up as supernatural or divined by aliens. But many ancient societies kept time by tracking which constellations rose at sunset, like reading a giant, celestial clock.

And others pinpointed the sun’s location in the sky on the summer and winter solstice, the longest and shortest days of the year, or the spring and fall equinox.

Europe alone holds some 35,000 megaliths, including many astronomically-aligned stone circles, as well as tombs (or cromlechs) and other standing stones. These structures were mostly built between 6,500 and 4,500 years ago, largely along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.

The most famous of these sites is Stonehenge, a monument in England that’s thought to be around 5,000 years old. Though still old, at that age, Stonehenge may have been one of the youngest such stone structures to be built in Europe.

The chronology and extreme similarities between these widespread European sites lead some researchers to think the regional tradition of constructing megaliths first emerged along the coast of France. It was then passed across the region, eventually reaching Great Britain.

But even these primitive sites are at least centuries younger than the world’s oldest known stone circle: Nabta Playa.

The stone circle of Nabta Playa marks the summer solstice, a time that coincided with the arrival of monsoon rains in the Sahara Desert thousands of years ago.

Located in Africa, Nabta Playa stands some 700 miles south of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. It was built more than 7,000 years ago, making Nabta Playa the oldest stone circle in the world — and possibly Earth’s oldest astronomical observatory.

It was constructed by a cattle worshiping cult of nomadic people to mark the summer solstice and the arrival of the monsoons.

“Here is human beings’ first attempt to make some serious connection with the heavens,” says J. McKim Malville, a professor emeritus at the University of Colorado and archaeoastronomy expert.

“This was the dawn of observational astronomy,” he adds. “What in the world did they think about it? Did they imagine these stars were gods? And what kinds of connections did they have with the stars and the stones?”