The secrets of a lost Egyptian city were underwater
By Thomas Page, for CNN
Updated 0914 GMT (1714 HKT) May 5, 2016
(CNN)Until 2001, two of Egypt’s greatest cities were missing. Then along came French scuba diver Franck Goddio, who made an extraordinary discovery underwater.
For 1,000 years, Thonis-Heracleion was completely submerged. Fish made their homes among the rubble of mighty temples; hieroglyphs gathered algae. Gods and kings sat in stasis, powerless, their statues slowly withdrawing from the world, one inch of sand at a time. Goddio spent years surveying this find, as well as neighboring Canopus, which was rediscovered by a British RAF pilot in 1933 who noticed ruins leading into the waters.
Thanks to a new exhibition at the British Museum, Goddio’s incredible finds will soon be open to the public.
Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds opens May 19, and according to museum curator, Aurelia Masson-Berghoff, the exhibition pulls back the curtain on what was once one of archeology’s greatest mysteries.
“(Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus) were known from Greek mythology, Greek historians and Egyptian decrees, and now we know where they were.”
Why did they sink?
Likely founded around 700BC, Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus acted as major trade hubs between ancient Egypt, Greece and the wider Mediterranean, located as they were at a handy intersection. But circumstances ultimately conspired against them, explains Masson-Berghoff.
“Several natural phenomenon caused these cities to sink by a maximum of (32 feet) below the sea,” she says, noting that a naturally rising sea level, subsidence and earthquakes (which ultimately triggered tidal waves) all played a hand.