Sunday, August 3, 2014


AS Antinous and Hadrian visited Alexandria in August of the year 130 AD, they made side trips to the resort of Canopus and embarked on a lion-hunting excursion ... and also probably visited the fabled city of Heracleion with its famous temple dedicated to the Nile Inundation Deity HAPI. 

They could scarcely know that they were visiting a real-life Atlantis ... that the city would literally vanish from the map a few centuries afterward.

This real-life Atlantis which sank off the coast of Egypt nearly 1,200 years ago has now been brought back to the surface with the help of 3-D. 

Archaeologists are working underwater at the site and it is possible they may turn up evidence that Antinous and Hadrian visited this "Egyptian Venice" before a quake caused it to sink beneath the waves.

The city of Heracleion, home of the temple where Cleopatra was crowned, was one of the most important trade centres in the Mediterranean area before it disappeared into what is now the Bay of Aboukir.

The Imperial entourage visited Alexandria and nearby Canopus in 130 AD. 

It is hard to believe they would have passed by fabled Heracleion without at least a brief stop to pay respects at the famous temple of Hapi the Nile inundation deity ... it was Hapi who helped Antinous perform his first miracle after deification.

Heracleion was re-discovered in 2001, and after more than a decade of excavation, researchers have now been able to create a map depicting life in the ancient trade hub.

For centuries, Heracleion was believed to be a legend, much like the fabled city of Atlantis.

But a few years ago, underwater archaeologist Dr Franck Goddio was searching the Egyptian coastline for French warships from the 18th century battle of the Nile, but instead stumbled across the treasures of the lost city.

After removing layers of sand and mud, divers discovered evidence of extraordinary wealth, painting a picture of what life was like in Heracleion, believed to have been at the centre of Mediterranean trade more than 1,000 years ago.

Archaeologists have found remains of more than 64 ships, buried in the seabed four miles off the coast of Egypt, the largest number of ancient ships ever to be found in one place.

As well as 700 anchors, the team have dug up gold coins and weights made from bronze and stone which would have been used in trade and to calculate taxation rates.

"The site has amazing preservation," said Dr Damian Robinson, director of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford.

"We are getting a rich picture of things like the trade that was going on there and the nature of the maritime economy in the Egyptian late period. 

"There were things were coming in from Greece and the Phoenicians."

The international research team have also discovered remnants of the legendary temple of Amun-Gereb where Cleopatra was invested with the power to rule Egypt.

The temple was the centre point of Heracleion from which a Venetian web of canals and channels connected other parts of the city together. 

Giant 3-meter (16 ft) statues of HAPI, OSIRIS and ISIS (pictured here) have been reassembled on the seabed 50 meters (150 ft) below the surface before being brought ashore, as well as hundreds of smaller statues of Egyptian gods.

Other finds include stone blocks with both Greek and Ancient Egyptian inscriptions and dozens of sarcophagi believed to have contained mummified animals offered as sacrifices to Amun-Gereb.

The research team, led by Dr Goddio have yet to establish what cause the city to go down, but the main theory is that the unstable sediments Heracleion was built on collapsed, and in combination with a rising sea-levels, may have caused the entire area to drop 12 feet straight into the water.

"We are just at the beginning of our research," Dr Goddio says.

"We will probably have to continue working for the next 200 years."

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