Lost artefacts from sunken cities dubbed the Atlantis
of Egypt are to be together for the first time after laying submerged for
more than a thousand years.
Enormous statues, golden jewellery and hieroglyphic tablets which
were feared lost forever have been reclaimed from the sea, and are to be put
on public display next year in a major exhibition by the British Museum.
The treasures belong to Heracleion and Canopus, cities built on the
shifting ground of the Nile delta, which are now buried beneath three metres
of silt. Ancient texts record the existence of the settlements, which were
the gateway to Egypt before Alexandria rose to prominence. But the two
trading hubs were lost - literally - to the sands of time until a chance
discovery in 1996.
Divers in the mouth of the Nile unearthed the treasures, and have
spent almost two decades since painstakingly dredging them out of the deep.
Highlights of the collection include a 1.9m heirogylphic tablet inscribed
with a royal declaration from Pharaoh Nectanebo I and a 5.4m statue of Hapy,
an Egyptian god who personifies the Nile’s floods.
The slab, which is 1.9m tall, will be one of the treasures on display
at an upcoming British Museum exhibition of underwater treasures. It is
inscribed with the decree of i, which levied a tax on imports from Greece
A diver secures a 5.4m statue of Hapy, a divine personification of
the Nile floods, to be lifted out of the waters. The colossal red granite
carving will one of the exhibition’s centrepieces. The six-tonne statue,
which dates to the 4th Century BC is the largest known example of a Hapy
The thick silt which covered most of the reclaimed artefacts helped
preserve them from centuries of decay.
The exhibition, called Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost World, will run
from May to November next year. It will combine items from the Museum’s own
archives with items on special loan from Egyptian authorities, who rarely
let the artefacts leave their country.
Around 300 items will be put on display, most of which were pulled
from the sunken ruins. The exhibition will focus on the mingling of cultures
in the Nile delta cities, particularly the interaction between Egypt and