30 May - 5 June 2002
Issue No.588
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Sunken Heracleion

HeracleionGold and bronze jewellery, coins, plates, amulets and other treasures have been recovered from the sea bed of the ancient city of Heracleion by the Franco-Egyptian mission which began underwater excavations at the site two years ago, reports Nevine El-Aref

In the course of a survey to define the topography of the sunken city and to pursue excavations of the Amun temple identified last season, underwater archaeologists came across another treasure horde.

According to Jean Yoyotte, professor at the Collège de France, excavations have revealed important information. Only 250 metres from the main temple, coins dating from the Byzantine emperors and the caliphs of the early Islamic period were found, corroborating an ancient text which says Heracleion was still inhabited at the end of the Byzantine era.

"The discovery of the Islamic coins provides evidence that Heracleion must have sunk during the 8th century AD," Yoyotte said.

Some of the pieces found are associated with religious rituals carried out at the Amun temple, Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni revealed. "In addition, there are pottery and partially-deteriorated statues which date back to the Late Pharaonic period. These are currently under study."

Among the most interesting of the new discoveries is a marble stone found on top of a large structure buried beneath the sand, bearing a Greek inscription suggesting it is the tombstone of a young man who was killed in battle in Ptolemaic times.

"It may," believes Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, "indicate the site of a cemetery serving the two cities Heracleion and Canopus."

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