The Egyptian-French archaeological mission of the European Institute of Laurel Archeology (IEASM), working in the sunken city of Heraklion in Abu Qir Bay – Alexandria, found the wreck of a Ptolemaic-era warship, equipped to sail in the Nile River. Also, it found the remains of a Greek funerary area dating back to the beginning of the fourth century BC. The discovery of the Ptolemaic era warship in Abu Qir Bay comes as one of a serial of discoveries in the same place.
Historical Background of Ptolemaic Era Warship in Abu Qir Bay
Mustafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that the ship was to dock in the canal that was flowing along the upper face of the Temple of Amun. However, this ship sank as a result of the collapse of the temple by a devastating earthquake. Subsequently, the collapse of the temple caused a fall of huge blocks on it during the second century BC. For fortune, the fall of those stone blocks helped to keep the ship down the deep channel, now littered with temple wrecks.
Ayman Ashmawy, head of the Egyptian Antiquities Sector, explained that IEASM discovered the wreck of that ship under nearly 5 meters of solid mud. This mud represents the seabed and is mixed with the remains of the temple. He added that the IEASM used underwater excavation devices such as sub-bottom profiler devices to find it.
While Frank Goddio, head of the mission of the European Institute of Sunken Archeology (IEASM), stressed that the discovery of fast ships dating back to that time is still very rare. He added that the Greek ships of this type were completely unknown until the discovery of the Punic ship Marsala (235 BC). This Punic ship is ” Our only example.
Description of Ptolemaic Era Warship
He added that preliminary studies indicate that the ship had a length of more than 25 meters. However, the hull was built according to the classical style that relies on the docus-and-deck technique. Yet, this style retains the characteristics of the ancient Egyptian one. Therefore, it represents a mixed type of construction.
The ship was a flat-bottomed one and had a flat beam, a useful model for navigation in the Nile and the delta, and had oars with a large sail, as indicated by the shape of the mast of great dimensions.
As some typical features of shipbuilding in ancient Egypt indicate, as well as evidence of the reuse of timber. These are enough shreds of evidence that the sailors built this ship in Egypt.
Facts Surrounding the Discovery of Ptolemaic Era Warship in Abu Qir Bay
Ehab Fahmy, head of the Central Department of Sunken Antiquities, said that the mission succeeded in finding the remains of a Greek funerary area. This area dates back to the beginning of the fourth century BC and lies at the entrance to the northeastern canal of the city. This discovery points to the presence of Greek merchants who lived in that city and controlled the entrance to Egypt at the mouth of the city – the Canopic branch of the Nile.
He pointed out that they were allowed to settle it during the late Pharaonic era, and they set up their funerary temples near the main temple of the god Amun. But, due to natural disasters, the area witnessed full destruction. Accordingly, the mission found the archaeological remains mixed with a stable Amun temple in excellent condition in the deep channel during the land subsidence caused by the phenomenon of Earth’s fragility.
He stressed that these monuments are an indicator of the richness of the temples of that city. The place is now located under the surface of the Mediterranean Sea, 7 kilometres from the beach of Abu Qir.
City of Heraklion
It is worth mentioning that the city of Heraklion was for centuries the largest port in Egypt on the Mediterranean. It played this role until the founding of the city of Alexandria by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. Several earthquakes, followed by tidal waves, caused the fragility of the land and the collapse of a section of about 110 square kilometres of the Nile Delta. As a result, the cities of Heraklion and Canopus sunk under the sea. The mission of the European Institute of Sunken Archeology (IEASM) rediscovered the two cities in cooperation with the Central Department of Sunken Antiquities at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, in the period from 1999 to 2001.