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Franck Goddio Newsletter

Newsletter May 2018

Dear Friends,

here is a brief update on what my team and I have been working on during the last couple of months. Our latest research in Egypt has given us some interesting new clues on ancient structures in Thonis-Heracleion in Aboukir Bay and in Alexandria's eastern harbour. We continued our geophysical surveys in the area, including the use of a new sediment sounder. The excavation process also revealed new artifacts. 

We are happy about the opening of the exhibition "Sunken Cities, Egypt's lost worlds" at the Saint Louis Art Museum. It's the North American premiere of the tour and will be on view until September. IEASM together with OCMA was delighted to take part in a conference in honor of Honor Frost in Cyprus with a paper on one of the ships we discovered in Thonis-Heracleion. There is also a new volume available in our OCMA monograph series "Underwater Archaeology in the Canopic Region in Egypt". And finally, I am happy to announce that in 2018 I became Visiting Professor in Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford.

Soon, we are about to leave for Egypt again, in order to resume our research in Aboukir Bay and in Alexandria. Hopefully we will make exiting new discoveries. I will keep you posted!

All the best,


Egypt expedition
Gold coin of Augustus

During the fall 2017 mission led by the IEASM, in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and with the support of the Hilti Foundation, we continued our geophysical surveys, including the use of a new sediment sounder in Aboukir Bay on the site of Canopus and in Alexandria. The goal was to better understand the ancient topography of the sites and position new archaeological deposits, and to improve our understanding of the connection between the cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus before they were totally submerged in the 8th century AD.

Based on the survey performed in 2016, the archaeological excavations took place first on the Thonis-Heracleion site and have revealed a large network of secondary canals that are much more complex and extensive than we thought at first sight. The presence of a small lake in front of the temple of Amon-Gereb seems to be confirmed, both by the specific layers of sediment as well as by the types of artifacts. 

The IEASM also conducted an electronic survey and an excavation campaign in the Portus Magnus in Alexandria Bay. On the secondary branch of the royal island of Antirhodos we have resumed excavations on the remains of the important structure which had been already identified as a sanctuary to the goddess Isis. The archaeological material, discovered in a disturbed environment, suggests a destruction in the 1st century AD. Bronze coins of Cleopatra VII and gold coins of Augustus were brought to light, associated with a rock crystal head of a man, most probably dating back from the late 1st century BC or early 1st century AD.

We also discovered 2 ancient shipwrecks in the port of Antirhodos one of a length of about 7 meters and beautifully preserved, the other being of a much bigger size according to the timber’s sections uncovered during the test excavation. The remains still have to be studied before we have more precise information on them. In the south-eastern Poseidium area, surveys and excavations were conducted to complete our topography of this part of the Royal Quarters. In parallel, along the modern Corniche, we were interested in an area buried under a thick layer of sediments (more than 2 meters) close to the ancient coast line of the Portus Magnus. It revealed architectural elements of limestone and pink granite such as an altar, as well as beautiful terra sigillata pottery dating from the 1st century AD and lead seals.

We hope that the upcoming mission will allows us to discover, thanks to the information gathered from the 2017 electronic survey, new elements complementing and refining our understanding of the Alexandria submerged Portus Magnus and of the sunken cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus.

Exhibition opening in St. Louis

The Saint Louis Art Museum is presenting Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds, the exhibition showcasing finds from Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus and focusing also on the cult of the “Master of the under world” and the celebrations of the “Mysteries of Osiris”. The North American premiere of "Sunken Cities" is the most significant exhibition of ancient Egyptian art undertaken in St. Louis in more than 50 years.

“Sunken Cities” is on view for an extended, six-month run. The exhibition recently was successfully shown at the Museum Rietberg in Zurich (Osiris – Das versunkene Geheimnis Ägyptens), the British Museum in London and the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris (Osiris, Mystères engloutis d’Égypte). 

“We long have sought an exhibition of ancient Egyptian antiquities that combines both rigorous archaeological research with objects of the highest artistic quality, and ‘Sunken Cities’ was a perfect match for us,” said Brent R. Benjamin, the Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum. “The museum is pleased to bring this groundbreaking, visually stunning exhibition to St. Louis for its first viewing in America.”    

More information and tickets

©Honor Frost Foundation

A conference "Under the Mediterranean" was held in October 2017 to commemorate the Anniversary of the Centenary of Honor Frost's birth on Cyprus. The IEASM in cooperation with the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford (OCMA) took part with a paper by Damian Robinson and Franck Goddio on "Ship 11 from Thonis-Heracleion, Egypt: Boat Sacrifice in an Osirian Sacred Lake".

The ship dates to between the fourth and second centuries BC. It was most likely deposited towards the beginning of the period and remained either an object or a place of veneration throughout the active life of the Central Island of Thonis-Heracleion and its temple of Amun-Gereb.


Oxford University’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCMA) has published a new book on Thonis-Heracleion and the archaeology in the Canopic region in Egypt. The volume Theological defences of the Canopic Gate in the Saïte Period, by Anne-Sophie von Bomhard, investigates a temple at the sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion and explores the theological defences conceived by the Egyptians to guard the Canopic gate during the Saïte Period (664 – 525 BC). 

The temple was located on an island or a peninsula at the point where the waters of the Nile met the Mediterranean Sea. The structure itself was largely robbed in antiquity, but a remarkable range of inscribed bronze objects engraved with royal and divine names were discovered within its demolition layer. Their documentation, analysis and interpretation form the core of this volume, demonstrating the crucial role the temple played in the defence of the kingdom of the Two Lands. 

There is also an article published in the Göttinger Miszellen - Beiträge zur ägyptologischen Diskussion (Heft 253/2017) by Sylvie Cauville and Franck Goddio: De la Stèle du Satrape (lignes 14-15) au Temple de Kom Ombo (n° 950), p. ​45-54​, discussing Thonis-Heracleion been one of “The Gate of Egypt”.