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.