CAIRO - 19 July 2021: The Egyptian-French archaeological mission of the European Institute for Underwater Archeology (IEASM), working in the sunken city of Heraklion in the Abu Qir Bay in Alexandria, discovered the wreck of a warship from the Ptolemaic period, and the remains of a Greek funerary area dating back to the beginning of the fourth century BC.
Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities Mustafa Waziri said that the ship was to dock in the canal that flowed along the upper side of the Temple of Amun, but it sank as a result of the collapse of the temple and the fall of huge blocks on it during the second century BC, as a result of a devastating earthquake. The fall of those stone blocks kept the ship down the deep channel, now littered with temple wrecks.
Head of the Egyptian Antiquities Sector Ayman Ashmawy explained that the wreck of that ship was discovered under approximately 5 meters of solid mud that represents the seabed mixed with the remains of the temple, using underwater excavation devices such as sub-bottom profiler devices.
Frank Goddio, head of the mission of the European Institute for Underwater Archeology (IEASM), confirmed that the discovery of fast ships dating back to that time is still very rare, and that Greek ships of this type were completely unknown until the discovery of the Punic ship Marsala (235 BC), which is the only example we've got.
He added that preliminary studies indicate that the ship was long, with a length of more than 25 meters. The hull has been built according to the classic style, which is based on the thrust and follicle technique, however, it contains the characteristics of the ancient Egyptian style, and thus is a mixed type of construction.
The ship has a flat bottom and has a flat keel, which is a very useful model for navigation in the Nile River and within the delta.
It had oars fitted with a large sail as evidenced by the shape of the mast of great dimensions as some typical features of shipbuilding in ancient Egypt indicate, as well as evidence of timber reuse; the ship was built in Egypt.
Professor Ehab Fahmy, head of the Central Department of Sunken Antiquities, said that the mission succeeded in finding the remains of a Greek funerary area dating back to the beginning of the fourth century BC, at the entrance to the northeastern canal of the city, which indicates the presence of Greek merchants who lived in that city, and who controlled the entrance to Egypt at the mouth of the Canopic branch of the Nile River, where they were allowed to settle during the late Pharaonic era. They built their mortuary temples near the main temple of the deity Amun.
But due to natural disasters, the area was destroyed, and its archaeological remains were discovered mixed with the Temple of Amun, stable, and in excellent condition in the deep channel during the subsidence caused by the phenomenon of fragility of the earth.
These ruins bear witness to the richness of the temples of that city, which are now located under the surface of the Mediterranean, 7 kilometers from the beach of Abu Qir.
It is worth mentioning that the city of Heraklion was for centuries the largest port in Egypt on the Mediterranean, before the founding of the city of Alexandria by Alexander the Great in 331 BC.
Several earthquakes followed by tidal waves caused the fragility of the land and the collapse of a section of about 110 square kilometers of the Nile Delta, with the collapse of the cities of Heraklion and Canopus under the sea.
The two cities were rediscovered by the mission of the European Institute for Underwater Archeology (IEASM) in cooperation with the Central Department of Underwater Antiquities at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, in the period from 1999 to 2001.