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British Museum Displaying Sunken Egyptian Artifacts for First Time Ever

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The ruins of antique Canopus were located at some 2km east of the western fringe of the Nile delta, in Aboukir Bay. (Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation)
The ruins of antique Canopus were located at some 1.2 miles east of the western fringe of the Nile delta, in Aboukir Bay. (Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation)

 

Egypt may be planning its own museum to showcase its underwater treasures, but before that’s completed, you can find some in London. For the first time ever, the British Museum is displaying a large-scale exhibition of underwater archaeology discoveries from two lost Egyptian cities, Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus.

The exhibition explores the story of these lost cities, their recent discovery underneath the Mediterranean seabed, how the discovery transforms our understanding of the relationship between ancient Egyptian and Greek cultures.

Pectoral in gold, lapis lazuli and glass paste, found in Tanis in the royal tomb of the Pharaoh Sheshonk II (Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation)
Pectoral in gold, lapis lazuli and glass paste, found in Tanis in the royal tomb of the Pharaoh Sheshonk II (Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation)

 

The exhibit, entitled “Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds,” features pristine monumental sculptures, stunning statues, fine metalware, and gold jewelry. After being submerged at the mouth of the Nile for more a millennium, the 300 objects on display were excavated between 1996 and 2012. The underwater setting preserved the vast number of objects with archaeological significance astoundingly well.

 

Divided into five sections, the exhibition begins with the rediscovery of the two sunken cities. It then shifts to focus on the early encounter between Greeks and Egyptians around 650 B.C., during which goods and ideas began to flow between the two cultures. The third section of the exhibit features the Ptolemaic Dynasty, exploring the legacy of Alexander the Great. Its fourth section changes gears to highlight the extraordinary recent discoveries that bring to life ancient religious ceremonies—most of which center on Osiris. The exhibition’s final section focuses on how aspects of a fused Greek and Egyptian religion were exported across the Roman Empire after Rome captured Alexandria in 30 B.C.

The exhibition runs until November 27, 2016. Find more information here.

The intact stele (1.90 m) is inscribed with the decree of Saϊs and was discovered on the site of Thonis-Heracleion. It was commissioned by Nectanebos I (378-362 BC) and is almost identical to the Stele of Naukratis in the Egyptian Mu seum in Cairo. The place where it was to be situated is clearly named: Thonis-Heracleion. (Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation)
The intact stele (1.90 m) is inscribed with the decree of Saϊs and was discovered on the site of Thonis-Heracleion. It was commissioned by Nectanebos I(378-362 BC) and is almost identical to the Stele of Naukratis in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The place where it was to be situated is clearly named: Thonis-Heracleion. (Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation)
The archaeologists of the Institut Européen d'Archéologie Sous-Marine (IEASM) discovered numerous votive objects, amongst them leaden votive barques, littering the channels and basins of the port around the temple of Amun-Gereb on the site of Thonis- Heracleion. These are models of the papyrus boats that accompanied t he sacred procession on the waterways, some even of the same length (67.5 cm). Their lead surface is incised to imitate the braided papyrus. (Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation)
The archaeologists of the Institut Européen d’Archéologie Sous-Marine (IEASM) discovered numerous votive objects, amongst them leaden votive barques, littering the channels and basins of the port around the temple of Amun-Gereb on the site of Thonis-Heracleion. These are models of the papyrus boats that accompanied the sacred procession on the waterways, some even of the same length (67.5 cm). Their lead surface is incised to imitate the braided papyrus. (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
In the waters of Aboukir Bay, on the site of the now submerged ancient town of Canopus, a diver brings to light a ͚ Garden vat made of Pink granite. (Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation)
In the waters of Aboukir Bay, on the site of the now submerged ancient town of Canopus, a diver brings to light a garden vat made of pink granite. (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
Magnificent statue of the bull god Apis presented naturalistic ally (H. 190 cm),dating back to Emperor Hadrian ͛ s reign, had been discovered at the entrance to the underground galleries of the Serapeion of Alexandria. (Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation)
Magnificent statue of the bull god Apis presented naturalistically (H. 190 cm), dating back to Emperor Hadrians reign, had been discovered at the entrance to the underground galleries of the Serapeion of Alexandria. (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
A colossal statue of red granite (5.4 m) representing the god H apy, which decorated the temple of Thonis-Heracleion. The god of the flooding of t he Nile, symbol of abundance and fertility, has never before been discovered at such a large scale, which points to his importance for the Canopic region. Height 5.4 metres, depth 90 centimetres, weight 6 tonnes. Early Ptolemaic period, 4th century BC. (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
A colossal statue of red granite (5.4 m) representing the god Hapy, which decorated the temple of Thonis-Heracleion. The god of the flooding of the Nile, symbol of abundance and fertility, has never before been discovered at such a large scale, which points to his importance for the Canopic region.  (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
(Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
The intact stele (1.90 m) is inscribed with the decree of Saϊs and was discovered on the site of Thonis-Heracleion. It was commissioned by Nectanebos I(378-362 BC) and is almost identical to the Stele of Naukratis in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The place where it was to be situated is clearly named: Thonis-Heracleion. (Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation)
Standing image of Osiris wearing the white crown, uraei and r egalia (Grey-green Graywacke, H. 1.50 m). This masterpiece of Saite statuary carries a dedi cation from the ͞ divine adorer of Amun ͟ Nitocris, daughter of Psamtik I (664-610 BC).The look of the ͞ Lord of Life ͟ seems fixed on a point beyond space and time, and his entire bei ng radiates an intense energy of life. (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
This masterpiece of Saite statuary carries a dedication from the divine adorer of Amun Nitocris, daughter of Psamtik I (664-610 BC).The look of the Lord of Life seems fixed on a point beyond space and time, and his entire being radiates an intense energy of life. (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
An archaeologist diver using a brush to clear remnants of f auna including a bovid jaw discovered under 2.5 cm of sand on the site of Canopus in Aboukir Bay. (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
An archaeologist diver using a brush to clear remnants of fauna including a bovid jaw
discovered under 2.5 cm of sand on the site of Canopus in Aboukir Bay. (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
Magnificent statue of the bull god Apis presented naturalistic ally (H. 190 cm),dating back to Emperor Hadrian ͛ s reign, had been discovered at the entrance to the underground galleries of the Serapeion of Alexandria. (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
Magnificent statue of the bull god Apis presented naturalistically (H. 190 cm),dating
back to Emperor Hadrian’s reign, had been discovered at the entrance to the underground galleries of the Serapeion of Alexandria. (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
Youthful posthumous portrait of Alexander the Great 2nd-1st c. BC; from Alexandria (The Trustees of the British Museum)
Youthful posthumous portrait of Alexander the Great from 2nd-1st c. BC; found in Alexandria (The Trustees of the British Museum)
Cut in hard, dark stone, this feminine body has a startli ngly sculptural quality. Complete, it must have been slightly larger than life-size. The statu e is certainly one of the queens of the Ptolemaic dynasty (likely Arsinoe II) dressed as the goddes s Isis, as confirmed by the knot that joins the ends of the shawl the woman wears, w hich was representative of the queens during this time period. The statue was found at t he site of Canopus. (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)
Cut in hard, dark stone, this feminine body has a startlingly sculptural quality. Complete,
it must have been slightly larger than life-size. The statue is certainly one of the queens
of the Ptolemaic dynasty (likely Arsinoe II) dressed as the goddess Isis, as confirmed by
the knot that joins the ends of the shawl the woman wears, which was representative of
the queens during this time period. The statue was found at the site of Canopus. (Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation)