An Ancient City Is Discovered Underwater. What They Found Will Change History Forever

December 1, 2013

underwater city Heracleion discovered
Photos: Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation

The city of Heracleion was engulfed underwater 1500 years ago. This grand city had been mentioned by the Greek writer Herodotus, the 5th-century BC historian. He had told a wonderful tale of Helen of Troy, who traveled to Heracleion, then a port of 'great wealth', with her Trojan lover, Paris.

When French marine archaeologist Franck Goddio stumbled upon some relics, it led them to one of the greatest finds of the 21st century; a city underwater. The discovery took place when Goddio had been in search of Napoleon’s warships from the 1798 Battle of the Nile, when he had been defeated by Nelson in these very waters, but to his surprise, he stumbled upon this magnificent discovery.

Here the team retrieves the statue of the god Hapi

underwater city Heracleion discovered
Photos: Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation

More and more statues are brought to surface, still in excellent condition

god and goddess statues brought to surface
Photos: Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation

The discoveries include the colossal statues of the Egyptian goddess Isis, the god Hapi, and an unidentified Egyptian pharaoh, all preserved in excellent condition by their muddy burial shroud. Along with these 16ft statues there are hundreds of smaller statues of Egyptian gods, among them the figures that guarded the temple where Cleopatra was inaugurated as Queen of the Nile. Dozens of sarcophagi have also been found, containing the bodies of mummified animals sacrificed to Amun-Gereb, the supreme god of the Egyptians. Many amulets, or religious charms, have been unearthed, too, showing gods such as Isis, Osiris and Horus.

A red granite sculpture of a Ptolemaic queen

sculpture discovered from underwater city
Photos: Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation

A gold vessel, which is a shallow dish used throughout the Hellenistic world for drinking

gold vessel shallow dish
Photos: Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation

A bronze statuette of a Pharoah of the 26th dynasty

underwater statue
Photos: Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation

An ancient lamp is discovered during the search

genie lamp
Photos: Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation

Here an archaelogist measures the feet of a colossal red granite statue

measuring a statue
Photos: Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation

The god Hapi was the god of the flooding of the Nile, a symbol of abundance and fertility

statue underwater Heracleion
Photos: Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation

A 1.9m inscribed pillar, commissioned by Nectanebo I (378-362 BC)

stele discovered 1500 years later
Photos: Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio Hilti Foundation

Evidence shows that Heracleion slipped into its watery grave sometime in the 6th or 7th century AD. The discovery of Heracleion will now add depth and detail to our knowledge of the ancient world, because among the discoveries, there are perfectly preserved inscribed pillars decorated with hieroglyphics.

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