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Franck Goddio Newsletter

Newsletter January 2016

Dear Friends,
I would like to give you a brief update on what my team and I have been working on during the last months and what new projects await us in 2016.
I wish you a happy new year.

Take care,

2015 expedition in Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus

This year's expedition in Egypt at Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus carried out in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry for Antiquities and with support of the Hilti Foundation brought some interesting new clues. We have been intrigued by the foundation date of the temple of Amon Gereb in Thonis-Heracleion, which we could date quite precisely as being from the early 4th century BC. This meant that the temple could not correspond to the sanctuary that the Greek historian Herodotus visited on his trip to Egypt in the 5th century BC, in 450 BC. In his Histories Herodotus referred to the great temple of Herakles and suggested that it existed at the time when the Trojan legends were set. As this temple could not be any of those that we have so far investigated in Thonis-Heracleion, finding the location of this missing old temple and investigating it became a priority. This year's mission might have brought us an answer, although we have to further analyze the collected data before we can be sure of our discovery.

In Canopus, we were able to identify the place where in antiquity the canal that linked the city of Canopus to the capital Alexandria started. It corresponded to an extension of a channel linking the cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, which we discovered in our previous missions. This "Canopic channel" is known through descriptions in ancient texts, such as that by the Greek geographer Strabo (63 BC - 24 AD) who wrote about the festivities taking place there: “And you see a heaving mass of people there on their way to the public festivals, arriving from Alexandria down the canal; day and night you can hardly see the water for boats whose passengers, both men and women, play the flute and dance in the most indecent, shameless fashion with the people of Canopus, who own holiday homes on the banks of the canal specially to take advantage of such wantonness.” The canal is also remembered  thanks to the Roman emperor Hadrian (AD 76 - 138) who built a water feature, called Canopus, at Villa Adriana near Rome. This complex also included a temple of Serapis and a representation of part of the canal between Canopus and Alexandria bordered with columns the remains of which can still be admired. We are curious what discoveries we will make in the original Canopic channel during the next expeditions.

During this year's mission our photographer, Christoph Gerigk, perfected the use of under water photography to record our excavations and sites in 3-D. It is a very accurate tool from which it is possible to make precise archaeological drawings. The photo models that it produces are extremely useful and allow the excavation team to visualize in 3-D large areas of the site, which is impossible underwater in the low visibility of Aboukir Bay.

"Osiris. Mystères Engloutis d'Égypte" at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris

In September we had the pleasure of inaugurating the exhibition "Osiris, Mystères engloutis d'Égypte" at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, in the presence of the President of the French Republic, François Hollande, and representatives of the Egyptian authorities. 

The exhibition presents 250 objects drawn from the last ten years of our underwater excavations at the ancient cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus.They are supplemented by 43 masterpieces from museums in Cairo and Alexandria, some of which leave Egypt for the first time. Together, they illustrate the legend of Osiris, the god of the afterlife, and the annual celebration of the “Mysteries of Osiris”, one of the most important and secret religious ceremonies of ancient Egypt. According to the Decree of Canopus, a stele from 238 BC, in the Canopic region this ceremony culminated in an annual nautical procession of the god Osiris along the canal linking Thonis-Heracleion to the city of Canopus. We have found numerous traces of this ceremony which are now on display in Paris. Visitors are guided through the 1,100 square meter exhibition to the two submerged cities and can follow the nautical procession along the canals.

The exhibition will be on view until March 6th. It will then move on to the British Museum, London, where a slightly different version of it will be presented.

Click here for information and tickets for the Paris exhibition

There is accompanying catalogue for the exhibition published by Flammarion, "Osiris, Mystères engloutis d'Égypte", in French language (an English version can be bought at the exhibition venue), 224 pages, EURO 25.

A children's book "Osiris, Mystères engloutis d'Égypte", De La Martinière Jeunesse, in French with cute illustrations is also available, 69 pages, EURO 15.

Exhibition at the British Museum London

We are delighted that the exhibition "Sunken Cities, Egypt's Lost Worlds" with discoveries from our underwater archaeological expeditions off the coast of Egypt will be on display at the British Museum in London from May - November 2016. It will be the first large-scale exhibition of underwater archaeology at the museum. The show enables us to share with the UK public the results of years of work at the sunken cities and our fascination for ancient worlds and civilizations. Placing our discoveries alongside selected masterpieces from the collections of Egyptian Museums, complemented by important objects from the British Museum, the exhibition presents unique insights into a fascinating period in history during which Egyptians and Greeks encountered each other on the shores of the Mediterranean.

Click here for information and tickets