Three Roman-era shipwrecks have been uncovered just off the coast of Alexandria, Egyptian antiquities authorities announced.
In addition to the shipwrecks, divers found a crystal carving of a head from the Roman era, three gold coins from the rule of Emperor Augustus, and a votive bark likely dedicated to the god Osiris, according to Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
The Egyptian Council of Antiquities and the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) began this latest round of surveys and excavations off the Alexandrian coast in September.
The waters off Alexandria are rich with sunken treasures from ancient cities and neighborhoods that became submerged hundreds of years ago, due to a combination of factors, such as rising sea levels, earthquakes and tidal waves.
Over the last three decades, French underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio, director of the IEASM, has led expeditions to reveal the underwater city of Heraklion, which was the port of entry intoEgypt before Alexandria was founded in 331 B.C. Goddio’s team has also uncovered remains of the city Canopus, once famous for its shrines, and a sunken section of ancient Alexandria, dubbed Portus Magnus.
At these sites, divers have revealed dozens of shipwrecks, larger-than-life stone statues of Egyptian gods and pharaohs, some measuring 16 feet (4.9 meters) tall, as well as more ephemeral traces of ancient life, such as animal footprints in the soil.
The True Story Behind Turkey’s Ancient ‘Underwater Castle’
By Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor |
Last week, a story about a 3,000-year-old castle discovered beneath the waters of Lake Van, in Turkey, went viral. But what’s the real story behind this Atlantis-like discovery?
It turns out that the story is more complicated and mysterious than recent news reports suggest, Live Science found after speaking with several archaeologists as well as the leader of the photography team who discovered the castle.
Parts of the “castle,” a term that the discoverers use to describe it, likely date to the Middle Ages, which lasted from about A.D. 476 to 1450, and it may not be an entirely new discovery: Reports from surveys of the Lake Van area conducted in the 1950s and 1960s noted the existence of the structure. It’s not clear when the castle was washed underwater. [See Photos of the Remains of the Underwater Castle in Turkey]
For instance, some of those reports indicated that medieval castle builders at Lake Van actually reused ancient material dating back to about 1000 B.C. to create the castle walls. The reports also mention a wall that plunges into the lake that has inscriptions on it that discuss an ancient king named “Rusa” and his interactions with a god named “Haldi.”
What has really been found?
For the past 10 years, a team led by Tahsin Ceylan, an underwater photographer, has been exploring the waters beneath Lake Van, documenting natural features like microbialites (living, organic rock structures that are similar in some ways to coral) as well as archaeological sites, such as a Russian ship that dates to 1915.
Live Science talked to a number of archaeologists who said that much of the structure appears to consist of medieval castle walls with some Urartian remains also visible. Archaeologists noted the existence of these ruins back in the 1950s and 1960s finding that the medieval castle builders had re-used blocks carved by the ancient Urartians.
In 2016, this team, which does not include an archaeologist, found a structure outside the harbor of Adilcevaz, a town in Turkey that has been inhabited for thousands of years. We “came across some sort of wall outside the harbor in one of our dives. Later [we] found out that it is a castle’s wall that starts within the harbor and continues outside,” Ceylan told Live Science. [Image Gallery: Stone Structure Hidden Under Sea of Galilee]
“The castle is approximately 1 kilometer [less than a mile] long and has a solid structure.”
The castle is made primarily of cut stones, Ceylan said, adding that the team had found a lion drawing on one of them, supporting the idea thatUrartians — a people who flourished in Turkey about 3,000 years ago — may have built the structure. Lions were a popular motif among the people of Urartu.
This drawing found carved into stone may show a lion, Ceylan said. Archaeologists are not certain what it is, but say that it may date to the Middle Ages.
Media reports suggested that an archaeologist was part of the team. “Our team of divers does not include an archaeologist — that is something the press added on their own,” Ceylan said. “In our statement that we’ve sent to the press, we indicated that [given] the fact it was built with cut stones and one of the stones has a lion figure carved on it, the castle might belong to [the] Urartian civilization that lived here 3,200 years ago. But we specifically stated that archaeologists are the sole deciders on the matter. But the press made their own assumptions from this statement,” Ceylan said.
Archaeologists weigh in
The underwater remains were found by Tahsin’s team in 2016, outside the harbor of Adilcevaz, a town in Turkey that has been inhabited for thousands of years. Tahsin’s team eventually found that the walls go up onto the harbor. A report published in 1959 refers to a wall that starts on land and goes into the lake that has Urartian blocks. Other reports dating to the 1950s and 1960s say that medieval castle builders in the Lake Van region actually re-used blocks carved by the Urartians.
The archaeologists that Live Science talked to thought that many of the remains the team found likely date to the Middle Ages. The underwater remains seem to consist of “Medieval castle walls and probably an Urartian site,” said Geoffrey Summers, an archaeological research associate at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. The remains have been “known for a long time” from survey reports, Summers said.
Summers looked at a high-resolution image of the lion drawing, saying he thinks it looks more medieval than something from the Urartian kingdom.
Kemalettin Köroğlu, an archaeology professor at Marmara Üniversitesi, agreed that much of the underwater remains are actually medieval. He noted that some of the images show masonry between the ashlar wall stones (which are a type of stone that is square cut). “The walls [seem] medieval or late antique period rather than Urartu. Urartian never used any material between ashlar wall stones to connect each other,” Köroğlu said.
It’s possible that some of the 3,000-year-old Urartian remains seen in the photos were actually reused by castle builders during the Middle Ages, said Paul Zimansky, a history professor at Stony Brook University in New York. He also said that he needs to conduct more research.
A vast collection of surveys and documents published by archaeologists who surveyed the Lake Van area in the 1950s and 1960s includes mentions of both Urartu and medieval remains in the area.
One intriguing paper, by archaeologists Charles Allen Burney and G.R.J. Lawson, published in 1958 in the journal Anatolian Studies, discusses a “medieval castle at Adilcevaz, on the north shore of Lake Van,” whose builders had reused blocks that had been constructed by the Urartians 3,000 years ago.
Another intriguing report published in 1959 in the journal Anatolian Studies by a scholar named P. Hulin reports on a “lofty wall of later than Urartian times” that runs “into the lake.” While investigating the wall, Hulin apparently discovered inscriptions dating back about 2,700 years that mention an Urartian king named Rusa. The inscriptions are fragmentary, and Hulin could make out only a small amount of the writing. The inscriptions discuss Rusa, who appears to be interacting with Haldi, an Urartian god.
The archaeologists and divers that Live Science spoke to all agree that more research is needed to determine what exactly these underwater remains consist of. “The area needs to be thoroughly researched by [an] archaeologist,” Ceylan said. “For the time being, there is no team here to conduct dives and researches on the castle.”
German researchers have discovered the wreck of U-581, a Nazi sub that sunk near the Azores in February 1942. The 220-foot-long VIIC U-boat—the same type of sub featured in the classic films Das Boot and Raiders of the Lost Ark—was found broken in two, and at a depth of nearly 3,000 feet.
Researchers with the German Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation found the wreck last September, but chose to withhold the finding until the precise identity of the sub could be confirmed, and because they wanted to make the announcement public on the 75th anniversary of the ship’s sinking. Working aboard the dive boat LULA 1000, the researchers were able to take hi-resolution pictures of the sunken submarine, revealing its condition and the many corals now clinging to its outer shell.
The German submarine U-581 was the sister ship to the famous U-96 sub, which was featured in the 1981 war film Das Boot. An exterior mock-up of this sub was also used in Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg rented the replica used inDas Boot). Over 560 VIIC-class U-boats were commissioned from 1940 to 1945, appearing in virtually all areas where German subs operated. Known as the “workhorse” of the German Kriegsmarine, these subs featured active sonar, and were powered by six-cylinder, four-stroke diesel engines. VIICs weighed 770 tons, had a range of 9,800 miles (15,700 km) and could cruise above water at speeds reaching 20 mph (39 km/h).
During World War II, the Germans lost nearly 800 submarines of all types, and over 28,000 U-boat sailers. Around one or two subs are found by marine archaeologists each year, but an estimated 100 U-boats are still unaccounted for.
Over a tenure that lasted less than a year, the U-581 carried out two missions, and managed to sink one auxiliary warship (likely the armed British trawler HMS Rosemond). On the evening of February 1, 1942, U-581, working in tandem with another German sub, was tasked with sinking the British squad carrier Llangibby Castle. The Allied ship was scheduled to leave the port of Horta on the Azores island of Faial. But before it could carry out its orders, the U-581 was spotted by the British destroyer Westcott and hit by a depth charge near the island of Pico. Defeated and unwilling to hand over the damaged sub to the British, the commander of the U-581 ordered the crew to skidaddle, and deliberately sank the sub.
Of the 46-man crew, four were killed when a water bomb was thrown at them while they were still in the water (apparently the result of a communication breakdown), 41 were taken prisoner, and one—quite incredibly—was able to escape. Officer Walter Sitek managed to swim 4 miles (6 km) to land. The Spanish officials who found Sitek repatriated him to Germany, where he survived the war (as did the German POWs).
Researchers with the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation, with the approval of Portuguese authorities (the Azores belongs to Portugal), began the hunt for U-581 in the spring of 2016. Using sonar, they created a high-resolution, 3D picture of the seafloor in the areas where the sub likely sank. The sub was found on September 13, 2016 by a crew working aboard the LULA 1000. Images of the sub—found broken into two pieces—were used to confirm its identity.
Work around the sub is still incomplete. The Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation, in addition to studying the unique marine wildlife in the cold, deep waters, is hoping to create a documentary about the discovery.
Tommy G. Thompson holds a $50 pioneer gold coin in 1989. (Lon Horwedel/Columbus Dispatch via AP)Tommy G. Thompson was once one of the greatest treasure hunters of his time: A dark-bearded diver who hauled a trove of gold from the Atlantic Ocean in 1988 — dubbed the richest find in U.S. history.
Years later, accused of cheating his investors out of the fortune, Thompson led federal agents on a great manhunt — pursued from a Florida mansion to a mid-rent hotel room booked under a fake name.
Now Thompson’s beard has grayed, and he lives in an Ohio jail cell, held there until he gives up the location of the gold.
But for nearly two years, despite threats and fines and the best exertions of a federal judge, no one has managed to make Thompson reveal what he did with the treasure.
A undated drawing of the S.S. Central America, which sank after sailing into a hurricane in 1857. (Library of Congress/AP)
The wreck of the S.S. Central America waited 130 years for Thompson to come along. The steamer went down in a hurricane in 1857, taking 425 souls and at least three tons of California gold to the sea floor off South Carolina.
Many tried to find it, but none succeeded until a young, shipwreck-obsessed engineer from Columbus, Ohio, built an underwater robot called “Nemo” to pinpoint the Central America, then dive 8,000 feet under the sea and surface the loot.
“A man as personable as he was brilliant, Thompson recruited more than 160 investors to fund his expedition,” Columbus Monthly noted in a profile. He “spent years studying the ship’s fateful voyage … and developing the technology to plunge deeper in the ocean than anyone had before to retrieve its treasure.”
Thompson’s crew pulled up rare 19th-century coins, the ship’s bell and “gold bars . . . 15 times bigger than the largest California gold bar previously known to exist,” the Chicago Tribune reported in 1989.
And 95 percent of the wreck site was still unexplored — potentially worth $400 million in gold alone, The Washington Post reported a year later. “The treasure trove is the richest in American history and the deepwater salvage effort the most ambitious ever undertaken anywhere.”
The expedition’s loot captured the country’s attention, as did the peculiarities of its leader — a scientist-seafarer hybrid who worked on nuclear submarine systems before he hunted treasure.
“Thompson is not exactly the romantic, swashbuckling sort,” Forbes wrote during the years-long recovery of the ship’s treasure. “He is scientific and methodical, with none of the P.T. Barnum that infuses (and inflates) other salvors.”
Gold bars and coins from the S.S. Central America, first glimpsed in 1989. (Associated Press)
In his late 30s, during the height of his fame, Thompson said little in public and tended to play down his role in the discovery.
“This gold is part of the largest treasure trove in American history,” he told reporters in 1989. “But the history of the S.S. Central America is also a rich part of our nation’s cultural treasury.”
He added: “It’s a celebration of American ideals: free enterprise and hard work.”
But before long, some of Thompson’s bankrollers began painting a very different picture of the man.
Two of the expedition’s biggest investors took him to court in the 2000s, accusing him of selling nearly all the gold and keeping the profits to himself.
When a federal judge ordered Thompson to appear in 2012, he didn’t show. An arrest warrant was issued, but the man who found a long-lost shipwreck had disappeared.
Thompson had “almost limitless resources and approximately a ten year head start” in the chase, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio Peter Tobin said in a statement.
Thompson and his girlfriend had been living for years in a Florida mansion, paying rent with cash that was damp and moldy from the earth it had been buried in, The Post’s Abby Phillip reported last year. The couple had fled by the time authorities found the house.
Government records detailed what they’d left behind: disposable cellphones, money straps stamped “$10,000” and a guide on evading law enforcement titled “How to be Invisible.”
An undated photograph of Thompson made available by U.S. Marshals in January 2015.
Thompson was finally caught in January 2015, after agents tracked his girlfriend to a $200-a-night hotel near West Palm Beach, The Post reported at the time.
In a celebratory statement, Tobin said the U.S. Marshals had used “all of our resources and ingenuity” to find the treasure hunter.
But they didn’t find the treasure.
Thompson’s investors, who originally expected to make tens of millions of dollars from the venture, said that they believe he had hundreds of gold coins secreted in a trust account for his children. At first, their search for the coins looked promising. Thompson pleaded guilty to contempt of court in April 2015, according to the Columbus Dispatch. He said the coins were in Belize and agreed to reveal their exact location.
But that didn’t happen.
Thompson’s attorney said last month that his client couldn’t remember who he gave the gold to, even after poring over thousands of pages of documents related to the treasure, according to the Dispatch.
A federal judge ruled that Thompson was faking memory problems, the newspaper reported, and has held him in an Ohio jail cell for a year.
Thompson could remain behind bars until he talks, the Associated Press reported, and is being fined $1,000 a day in the meantime.
“Who knows — he might have an epiphany,” U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley remarked Monday when he ordered Thompson to answer questions about the gold’s location.
But so far, the S.S. Central America’s treasure remains missing for the second time in two centuries.
And perhaps the only man able to find it remains as silent as the lost sailors of that old wreck.
An underwater survey off the coast of Greece has uncovered a massive cache of wrecked ships, sunk over a span of more than 2,000 years. And researchers just keep finding more and more to add to that tally.
In the nine months they’ve been swimming around Greece’s Fourni archipelago, the research team from The Fourni Underwater Survey has already found 45 individual shipwrecks in the 17-mile stretch. A whopping 23 of those shipwrecks were detailed in a new announcement from the teamissued today. Strangest of all, there doesn’t seem to be any pattern to the age of the shipwrecks. The oldest dates back to around 500 BC, while the youngest is from around 1800.
To put the scale of the find in perspective, Peter Campbell of the University of Southampton and lead archaeologist on the project, points out that similar coastlines in the area only have a couple shipwrecks—and other similarly-sized finds have been spread across areas about 20 times as big.
“For comparison, many larger islands around the Mediterranean have only three or four known shipwrecks. The United States recently created a national marine sanctuary in Lake Michigan to protect 39 known shipwrecks located in 875 square miles,” Campbell noted in a statement. “Fourni has 45 known shipwrecks around its 17 square mile territory.”
And the team isn’t done adding to the total yet. There are two more years left in the investigation—and still several areas that divers haven’t even begun to explore. So researchers expect to find even more shipwrecks, from across different eras, as they investigate through 2018.
The message is clear: Stay away from the Fourni islands, sailor. Here be monsters.
Two recreational divers in Israel recently stumbled upon one of the greatest caches of artifacts from antiquity ever discovered. The recovered treasures include bronze statues of ancient Roman deities and coins bearing the face of Constantine the Great.
Ran Feinstein and Ofer Ra’anan were diving in the ancient port of Caesarae off the coast of Israel when they discovered the cargo of a large merchant ship dating back 1,600 years to the Late Roman period. The two divers reported their find to the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), which promptly sent its own divers to the site, where they discovered numerous artifacts previously buried under the sands of the seafloor.
A large portion of the seabed had been cleared away by ocean currents, and the remains of the merchant ship as well as its cargo were left sitting near the top of the sand. Subsequent dives led by the IAA over the past few weeks have brought several artifacts up to the surface, including a bronze lamp depicting the sun god Sol, a figurine of the moon goddess Luna, statues of animal figures such as a wild boar with a swan on its head, and two large metallic lumps weighing about 45 pounds each-each one made up of thousands of coins that fused together in the shape of the pot that contained them.
“These are extremely exciting finds, which, apart from their extraordinary beauty, are of historical significance,” said Jacob Sharvit, director of the Marine Archaeology Unit of the IAA, in a press release. “The location and distribution of the ancient finds on the seabed indicate that a large merchant ship was carrying a cargo of metal slated [for] recycling, which apparently encountered a storm at the entrance to the harbor and drifted until it smashed into the seawall and the rocks.”
Sharvit notes that metal statues from antiquity are incredibly rare because they were melted down so the metal could be reused-apparently the intended fate of this ship’s cargo before it sunk to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.
“A marine assemblage such as this has not been found in Israel in the past thirty years,” he says. “The sand protected the statues; consequently they are in an amazing state of preservation-as though they were cast yesterday rather than 1,600 years ago.”
The coins bear the faces of Emperor Constantine, who ruled from 312 to 337 AD, and one of Constantine’s rivals, Licinius, ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire until Constantine defeated him in battle in 324. Constantine is best known for making Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire.
Another shipwreck was discovered last year near the same ancient port of Caesarae. That find included a cache of gold coins from the Fatimid Caliphate dynasty that ruled Northern Africa from 909 to 1171, and was also recovered by divers from the IAA. The gold coins are currently on display at Caesarae harbor. Once archaeologists have had time to study the recently recovered Roman artifacts, they too will likely be put on display for the public.
There are millions of shipwrecks on the ocean floor waiting to be discovered and explored-many of which are right next to the shore, buried in the sands. Who knows what treasures unwitting divers will happen upon next.
If you thought sunken treasure was only found in fairy tales, think again. Two divers recently found a trove of well-preserved artifacts off the Israeli coast.
During a recent diving session, the hobbyists turned up ancient statues, coins, a bronze lamp, ship anchors and other sailing tools, according to the Israeli Antiquities Authority. The sand-preserved booty is believed to hail from a cargo ship that wrecked 1,600 years ago.
Coins found amid the rubble bear the images of Western Roman Emperor Constantine and his rival Licinius, who ruled the eastern part of the Roman Empire, according to the IAA. That means the relics could come from a time when Constantine had not yet taken over the entire Roman Empire and ushered in a wave of Christianity over the region.
“The location and distribution of the ancient finds on the seabed indicate that a large merchant ship was carrying a cargo of metal slated recycling, which apparently encountered a storm at the entrance to the harbor and drifted until it smashed into the seawall and the rocks,” IAA director of marine archaeology Jacob Sharvit and deputy director Dror Planer said in a statement. “A marine assemblage such as this has not been found in Israel in the past 30 years. Metal statues are rare archaeological finds because they were always melted down and recycled in antiquity.”
Ultimately the IAA plans to showcase its latest findings to the general public, as it did last year with a block of gold coins that were also found underwater.
(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.”
Stele of Thonis-Heracleion, inscribed with the decree of Sais and commissioned by Nectanebos I (378-362 BC).
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.
11 photos:Treasures lost to sea revealed in Paris
A diver inspects portions of a cella, a rectangular room found inside Greek temples, one of about 250 ancient Egyptian artifacts once thought to be lost to history, now on display in Paris.
Gods of yester-millennium
Masson-Berghoff explains they also learned a lot from the form taken by the religious idols dug up from their watery grave. The statues were mainly of Ptolemaic gods with human features that represented the same qualities Egyptians prescribed to animals
“The Greeks were not exactly into animal-shaped gods nor into animal worship,” she explains. “The Ptolemies, the Greco-Macedonian rulers of Egypt after Alexander the Great, created a human-shaped version of a very old Egyptian god, the sacred bull Osiris-Apis. In its ‘Greek’ form, he became Serapis, combining the aspects and functions of major Greek gods.”
The colossal head of a statue of Serapis will be on display alongside other large objects that blur the lines between Greek and Egyptian civilizations.
“We will show in ‘Sunken Cities’ a variety of sculptures depicting these Greco-Macedonian rulers as Egyptian Pharaohs, wearing Egyptian crowns and acting as if they were Egyptian Pharaohs,” the curator says.
It was not vanity that prompted their change in style, but shrewd political maneuvering. “The Ptolemies really understood that they needed the support of the local priesthood and population, to legitimize their rule,” Masson-Berghoff argues. “To achieve this, they adopted Egyptian beliefs, rituals and iconography.”
Colossal statue of Hapy, made from pink granite and over five meters high.
The largest item on display is a statue of Hapy, ironically the god of flooding. Over 16-feet tall and weighing 12,000 pounds, the pink granite sculpture dates from the sixth century BC, long before Thonis-Heracleion disappeared into the sea.
Also worth noting is what Goddio’s team left on the seabed. The archeologist discovered 69 ships: “the largest assemblage of boats ever discovered,” Masson-Berghoff claims — likely used on a Grand Canal which ran between Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion, upon which a sacred barge made of sycamore would travel during the Mysteries of Osiris, a celebration of the god of the underworld.
All of this, however, is just a drop in the bucket.
“What you need to know is that Franck excavated less than 5% of this site,” the curator stresses. “They left a lot of material on the seabed.”