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16 April 2013 | 09:48

TV Documentary on Thonis-Heracleion

Premiers Saturday, 11 May 2013 on Arte Reruns Sunday, 26 May at 3.25 pm on Arte

The TV documentary Egypt's Sunken City/ A Legend Is Revealed shows the rediscovery of the ancient city of Thonis-Heracleion that submerged more than a 1,000 years ago, on Saturday, 11 May, at 8.15 pm (German)/ 8.45 pm (French) on Arte.

Thonis-Heracleion was the gateway to Egypt, the obligatory port of entry and customs point during the Egyptian Late Period (664 BC until 332 BC). It was a vital node in the trading network of the eastern Mediterranean through which goods flowed into and out of Egypt. The first traces of it were found 6.5 kilometres off today’s coastline by the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) under the overall direction of Franck Goddio in 2000. In cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry for Antiquities and the support of the Hilti Foundation, the team has recovered important information on the city’s ancient landmarks, such as the grand temple of god Amun and his son Khonsou and the city’s harbours.

The TV documentary provides a fascinating insight into the work of underwater archaeologists and presents the most important discoveries that have been made in the last 13 years in Thonis-Heracleion. The scale and the diversity of the results has amazed experts: "The archaeological evidence is simply overwhelming," says Sir Barry Cunliffe, eminent archaeologist at Oxford University. "By lying untouched and protected by sand on the seafloor for centuries they are brilliantly preserved." Among the finds is the largest known statue of the Egyptian god of the Nile flood (Hapi) and one of the largest known concentrations of ancient ships. Additionally, there are well preserved shrines from the heart of the temple area, votive items and jewelry, coins and finely carved official inscriptions on stone documenting life in the city and exchange with other cultures.

The TV documentary traces the various stages of years of painstaking survey and excavation work. Using 3D animation, the structures of the ancient city become again visible: buildings and temples, ships, piers and jetties and the channel systems are returning to the surface. But the work is far from over: "We are just at the beginning of our research," says Franck Goddio, "we will probably have to continue working for the next 200 years for Thonis-Heracleion to be fully revealed and understood."

Egypt's Sunken City/ A Legend Is Revealed is a co-production by Hoferichter & Jacobs Film and Fernsehproduktion mbH with MDR in collaboration with Arte, written and directed by Jan Tenhaven.