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Intelligence Sunken Cities

I am a huge Egyptophile with a passion for underwater archaeology so I leapt at the chance to visit this new show. Undeterred by my first unsuccessful visit on opening day when Greenpeace activists shut down the museum over its BP sponsorship, I returned the next day and was blown away by the scale and magnificence of the show.

The show tells the story of two lost Egyptian cities, Thonis Heracleion and Canopus, which date from the 7th century BC, and their recent rediscovery beneath the Mediterranean sea. These bustling cosmopolitan cities sat at the cross-roads of east and west, and represented a fascinating cultural, commercial, political and religious exchange.

The 300 artefacts exposed from their watery grave are presented alongside important loans from Egyptian museums rarely seen before outside the country, as well as exquisite finds from the British Museum’s own collection. Thanks to the underwater setting, a vast number of objects of great archaeological significance have been astonishingly well preserved including gold jewellery and ornamental statues, as well as a complete stone tablet of a royal decree dating back to 380BC. Highlights include a life-size bronze bull and 5.4m high statue of the god Hapy which dominates the space.

An amazing must-see blockbuster.

Credit for Thumbnail: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation

HERACG_115 Colossal statue of god Hapy, Thonis-Heracleion, Aboukir Bay, Egypt (SCA 281) 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. Height 5.4 metres, depth 90 centimetres, weight 6 tonnes. Early Ptolemaic period, 4th century BC. ©Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation - Photo: Christoph Gerigk _C146756 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 - Photo: Christoph Gerigk _OSI1845_to_scale Pectoral in gold, lapis lazuli and glass paste, found in Tanis in the royal tomb of the Pharaoh Sheshonk II (~ 890 BC), Egyptian Museum, Cairo JE 72171 ©Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation - Photo: Christoph Gerigk Hera CG 097 Stele of Thonis-Heracleion, Thonis-Heracleion, Aboukir Bay, Egypt (SCA 277) 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 - Photo: Christoph Gerigk

Posted by
Margaret Callanan