Egypt Mission 2022: New Finds
Temple treasures and a sanctuary to Aphrodite
Among the finds of the 2022 mission in Thonis-Heracleion in the Bay of Aboukir are precious ritual objects proceeding from the treasury of the famed temple of Amun Gereb in the sunken city, which slid into a canal during an earthquake mid second century BC.
The archaeological excavations revealed that the large blocks have dragged down in their fall a number of objects which were part of the temple treasury. The three meters thick layer of hard clay under which they were embedded beautifully preserved the artefacts. The team found, among many other precious objects, silver ritual instruments in pristine condition. Gold jewelry and fragile alabaster containers for perfumes and unguents were also retrieved among the fallen blocks.
The IEASM’s use of new underwater excavation devices made possible their difficult extraction from the heavy sediment. Those ritual objects and offerings to the temple bear witness to the wealth of this sanctuary and the piety of the former inhabitants of the port city.
East of the temple of Amun Gereb, a Greek sanctuary dating back to the 5th century BC, devoted to Aphrodite was also discovered which yielded vestiges of imported bronze and ceramic objects. Greeks were allowed to trade and settle to that city by decision of Pharaohs of the Saite dynasty (664 BC- 525 BC). They were also allowed to build their own sanctuaries. The presence of Greek mercenaries was ascertained by numerous Greek weaponries found on the area of this port-city posted at the mouth of the Canopic branch of the Nile controlling the entrance to Egypt.
The remains of Thonis-Heracleion are now located under the sea, 7 kilometers from the present coast of Egypt. The city was for centuries the largest port of Egypt on the Mediterranean Sea before Alexander the Great founded Alexandria in 331 BC. Several earthquakes, followed by tidal waves which triggered land liquefaction events, caused a 110 square kilometers portion of the Nile delta to totally collapse under the sea, taking with it the city of Thonis-Heracleion. The cataclysm of mid-second century BC destroyed the temple to the God Amun Gereb were Pharaohs had to come to receive from the supreme God of the ancient Egyptian pantheon the titles of their power as universal Kings.
The city of Thonis-Heracleion was discovered by the IEASM in 2000 in collaboration with the Underwater Archaeology Department of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.