Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered three sunken shipwrecks dating back more than 2,000 years to Roman times off the coast of the city of Alexandria. The discovery includes a crystal head sculpture and coins dating back to the time of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor.
12. Amazing New Discovery
According to Mostafa Waziri, the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the discovery was made in collaboration with the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology. The most significant discoveries were a head sculpture carved in crystal and three gold coins dating back to Rome’s first emperor, Augustus (also known as Augustus Caesar Octavian).
11. Cleopatra’s Sunken Palace
Alexandria was founded by Greece’s Alexander the Great in 331 BC. It was the seat of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Although for decades some scholars argued that it was more Greek than Egyptian, archeologists in 1998 found the remains of Cleopatra’s royal palace. The palace had been buried beneath the Mediterranean sea for 1,600 years. This was more evidence that Alexandria was part of the Egyptian Empire. Cleopatra was the final great Egyptian leader.
10. Earthquake and Tsunami
Cleopatra’s spectacular palace ended up in the sea after a devastating earthquake and tsunami. The palace was the seat of her powers, and the place where she wooed Roman leaders and plotted to stop them from taking Egypt. It was also where she took her own life. The palace was rediscovered when French archeologist Franck Goddio read the writings of Greek historian Strabo. He said the palace was built on the island of Antirhodos. Goddio then started a diving expedition, which made the incredible find.
9. The Find of a Lifetime
Goddio’s divers eventually located ancient docks beneath the island and huge pillars made from red Egyptian granite. There were over 60 pieces, four feet in diameter and seven meters long. Then they found the wooden foundation of Cleopatra’s palace, which was carbon dated to 200 years before her birth, indicating that she inherited the palace.
8. Augustus Caesar Octavian
Alexandria’s waters are rich with many more sunken treasures. The three shipwrecks are just the beginning of what the area may yield; wooden planks and pottery suggest that there is a fourth shipwreck in the area. Augustus is the grand-nephew of Julius Caesar. He brought stability to the Greco-Roman world after Caesar’s assassination, leading the empire for 40 years.
7. Crystal Sculpture
The head of the crystal statue is believed to depict the Roman general Marcus Antonius, better known by the name Marc Antony. Antony is best known to modern people for his doomed love affair with Cleopatra. Of course, Cleopatra also had a relationship with Julius Caesar. Antony killed himself with a knife after he mistakenly believed that Cleopatra had committed suicide.
6. Egypt’s Lost City
Goddio’s divers found another incredible find in the sea: the ancient city of Thonis. The Greeks called the city Heracleion. However, there was a debate about whether the city was fictional or real, since it disappeared into the sea over 1200 years ago. Researchers found it 150 feet under the surface of Egypt’s Bay of Aboukir. One of the most exciting finds from the area was a votive bark depicting the god Osiris.
5. Soil Erosion Disaster
The Heracleion site is incredible and will be excavated for decades. So far they found 64 ships, 16-foot-tall statues, 700 anchors and hundreds of gold coins and other artifacts. Goddio thinks the site is even older than Alexandria and was probably founded around the 8th century BC. It was felled by several natural disasters, including serious soil erosion that finally saw it collapse into the sea around the year 700.
4. Helen of Troy
The city was the key international trading port for Alexandria. Taxes would have been levied and taken to the temple there. The city also is thought to have been involved in some of the most iconic moments of ancient history. Helen of Troy supposedly visited the city with Paris right before the onset of the Trojan War.
3. Enormous Pharaoh
Among the many amazing finds is a huge statue of a pharaoh. It is made from red Egyptian granite and is over five meters tall. it was discovered very near the temple in Thonis. The dive team was able to put it back together while on site. Here Goddio and his divers inspect the amazing statue.
2. Stone Monument
In this photo, the giant stele of Thonis-Heracleion is taken from the water. A stele acted as a monument in the ancient world and was usually taller than their width. This one was ordered by Pharaoh Nectanebo I (378-362 BC). Researchers say it is nearly identical to the stele of Naukratis which is located in the Egyptian Museum of Cairo.
1. Ptolemaic Sarcophagus
The area has been yielding incredible artifacts on land as well. An Egyptian archeological mission discovered a tomb with a large black granite sarcophagus earlier this year. It dates to the Ptolemaic era. Waziri said the “black granite sarcophagus is one of the largest found in Alexandria, for it is 265cm long, 185cm high and 165 cm wide.” They have not yet identified who is inside the sarcophagus.