For centuries, scholars dismissed the ancient Egyptian port of Thonis-Heracleion (Thonis to the Egyptians, Heracleion to the Greeks) as nothing more than a myth.
Vanishing beneath the waves of the Mediterranean some 1,200 years ago, the city was once a bustling hub of activity, both commercial and religious. In fact, the ancient port is thought to be the gateway though which all trade from Greece and the Mediterranean entered Egypt.
Thonis-Heracleion may even have been the city that Helen of Troy and Paris, being relentlessly pursued by King Menelaus, sought refuge in during the events that led up to the famous Trojan War of antiquity.
Thonis-Heracleion stood for roughly 1,000 years before its eventual slide into the sea, where it was swallowed whole by sand and mud. To this day nobody knows exactly what caused such a disaster to happen.
Theories range from an Atlantis-like series of natural disasters, to a gradual rise in sea level, which may have caused the sediment beneath the cityâs foundations to collapse, but of course, nobody knows for sure.
Thonis-Heracleion was discovered by underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio, following a survey of Egyptâs North coast in 2000. Since then, underwater archaeologists have learned a great deal about the everyday lives of the people living in the city, and theyâve uncovered some truly astounding artefacts into the bargain.
Giant 16-foot statues, beautiful gold coins, large stone slabs bearing ancient writing and the wreckage of 64 seafaring vessels (together with some 700 anchors) are just some of the treasures that have been pulled up from the seafloor. It is thought that these, and other marvellous finds have remained in such good condition due to being protected by sand and sediment and thus, untouched for centuries.
Even though the site has been in the process of excavation for so many years, amazing photos continue to (ahem) flood the web, some of which are genuinely astonishing.
The finds hint that not only was the city an important centre for trade and commerce, it may also have been a site of great spiritual significance as well.
âWe are just at the beginning of our researchâ, says Goddio, “We will probably have to continue working for the next 200 years for Thonis-Heracleion to be fully revealed and understood.â Who knows what sunken treasures the site will yield as the investigation continues?