Egyptian

In the Underwater Egyptian City of Thônis-Heracleion, Divers Have Discovered an Ancient Warcraft


Divers have discovered a rare military vessel amid the sunken ruins of the ancient Egyptian city of Thônis-Heracleion.

Measuring over 80 feet long, the flat-bottomed ship had both oars and a large sail. While built in the classical Greek style, it also incorporates some Egyptian shipbuilding traditions. The vessel was likely sunk when the nearby Temple of Amun collapsed; the remains were discovered beneath 15 feet of clay and debris from the building.

Excavations from a joint French and Egyptian mission led by the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM) have also uncovered a 4th-century Greek funerary area.

“This discovery beautifully illustrates the presence of the Greek merchants who lived in that city,” read a statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, as reported by Reuters. “They built their own sanctuaries close to the huge temple of Amun. Those were destroyed, simultaneously and their remains are found mixed with those of the Egyptian temple.”

The Greek ship is one of only two known surviving vessels of its kind, underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio wrote on the antiquities ministry’s Facebook page. Archaeologists found a similar style of vessel from 235 B.C. called the Masala Ship, in Sicily in 1971.

Prior to the founding of Alexandria by Alexander the Great in the year 331, Thônis-Heracleion was the largest port city in Egypt, controlling the entrance to the country at the mouth of a western branch of the Nile River.

The city was destroyed by earthquakes and sunk beneath the waves of the Mediterranean in the 8th century. It was rediscovered by Goddio’s IEASM team between 1999 and 2001. It was known as Heracleion to the Greeks (the historian Herodotus wrote of it in the fifth century B.C.), but Egypt called it Thônis. A plaque discovered during excavations helped experts realize that the two were one and the same.

See more photos from excavations below.

Remains of an ancient military vessel discovered in the Mediterranean sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion off the coast of Egypt. Photo by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

Remains of an ancient military vessel discovered in the Mediterranean sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion off the coast of Egypt. Photo by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

Remains of an ancient military vessel discovered in the Mediterranean sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion off the coast of Egypt. Photo by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

Remains of an ancient military vessel discovered in the Mediterranean sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion off the coast of Egypt. Photo by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

An artifact discovered in the Mediterranean sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion off the coast of Egypt. Photo by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

An artifact discovered in the Mediterranean sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion off the coast of Egypt. Photo by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities.

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Archaeologists Have Discovered 110 Tombs From Three Different Eras of Ancient Egyptian History in the Nile Delta


Excavations at an ancient site in the Nile Delta have uncovered no less than 110 tombs dating from three different periods of ancient Egyptian history.

The find includes 68 oval-shaped tombs from the predynastic Buto Period (6000–3150 B.C.), 37 rectangular-shaped tombs from the Second Intermediate Period (1782–1570 B.C., also known as the era of Hyksos, a Semitic people that ruled Egypt at the time), and five oval-shaped tombs from the Naqada III period (3200–3000 B.C.), according to Smithsonian Magazine.

“This is an extremely interesting cemetery because it combines some of the earliest periods of Egyptian history with another important era, the time of the Hyksos,” Salima Ikram, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, told Reuters. “Egyptologists are working to understand how the Egyptians and the Hyksos lived together and to what degree the former took on Egyptian traditions.”

The discovery was announced in statement from the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, which plans to continue excavations on the site. Artifacts uncovered to date include stoves and ovens, pottery, silver rings, funerary furniture, scarab amulets, pottery, and bricks from old buildings.

Scarab amulets from the archeological site of 110 tombs at the Nile Delta. Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Scarab amulets from the archeological site of 110 tombs at the Nile Delta. Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The dead were buried in squatting positions in the Buto period tombs, while Hyksos period burials were done face-up, their heads pointing to the west. Both the Buto and Hyksos tombs included the remains of babies in jars, an ancient burial practice that remains mysterious.

“But there’s always the interpretation that the jar is almost like a womb, so basically the idea is to return [the] baby back into Mother Earth, or into the symbolic protection of his mother,” archaeologist Yoav Arbel told Live Science of a similar discovery last year.

Though maintaining tourism has been a struggle in Egypt over the past decade—first due to revolution, and more recently because of the ongoing pandemic—the government hopes discoveries such as these will encourage overseas travelers to visit.

Earlier this month, Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, marked the opening of Cairo’s long-awaited National Museum of Egyptian Civilization with an elaborate procession across the city of 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies.

See more photos from the newly uncovered tombs below.

A human skeleton from a tomb at the Nile Delta. Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

A human skeleton from a tomb at the Nile Delta. Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

A human skeleton from a tomb at the Nile Delta. Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

A human skeleton from a tomb at the Nile Delta. Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Artifacts from the archeological site of 110 tombs at the Nile Delta. Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Artifacts from the archeological site of 110 tombs at the Nile Delta. Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

A human skeleton from a tomb at the Nile Delta. Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

A human skeleton from a tomb at the Nile Delta. Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

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Cairo Literally Paraded Ancient Royal Mummies Through Town to Mark the Opening of a Long-Awaited Egyptian Civilization Museum


Cairo celebrated the long-awaited opening of its National Museum of Egyptian Civilization with a procession of 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies, transporting them across the city to their new home, where they will go on view later this month.

Safely moving the millennia-old remains was a multimillion-dollar affair that involved building special shock-absorbent vehicles as well as repaving the roads along the route to ensure a smooth ride. To maintain optimal preservation conditions, the mummies were put into oxygen-free nitrogen capsules for the duration of their journey.

Each of the 18 kings and four queens had their own gold and blue car, designed to look like the pharaonic boats used to transport ancient royals to their tombs, and featuring the winged sun symbol used by the pharaohs.

The carriage carrying the mummy of Queen Tiye, wife of Amenhotep III, advances as part of the parade of 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images.

The carriage carrying the mummy of Queen Tiye, wife of Amenhotep III, advances as part of the parade of 22 ancient Egyptian royal mummies Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images.

The three-mile parade started at the Egyptian Museum near Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. Egyptian authorities spent months preparing for the event, dubbed the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade, which involved horse-drawn chariots and hundreds of performers in ancient-style garb.

Although the new museum aims to recapture some of the tourism lost in recent years due to political unrest and the pandemic, there were no crowds on hand to watch the spectacle. The parade route and the surrounding streets were closed for security measures and locals were told to watch the televised broadcast. The filming was orchestrated to block views of impoverished communities with banners, flags, and temporary barricades.

Customized vehicles for transferring mummies leave the Egyptian Museum during the Pharaohs' Golden Parade in Cairo, Egypt, on April 3, 2021. Photo by Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua via Getty Images.

Customized vehicles for transferring mummies leave the Egyptian Museum during the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade in Cairo, Egypt, on April 3, 2021. Photo by Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua via Getty Images.

“There is a tendency to try to show a better picture instead of fixing the existing reality,” Ahmed Zaazaa, an urban planner, told the New York Times. “The government says they are making reforms, but the vast majority of people in Cairo who live in working-class neighborhoods are excluded.”

The chronologically themed procession started with Seqenenre Taa, who reigned as the 17th dynasty’s last ruler during the 16th century BC, and ended with 12th century BC pharaoh Ramses IX, of the 20th dynasty.

The most famous pharaohs in the parade were Ramses II, of the 19th dynasty, who led the New Kingdom in the 13th century BC, during its most powerful period, for 67 years, and Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled as the second female pharaoh, during the 18th dynasty in the 15th century BC. All the mummies were originally excavated in the 19th century from the Valley of Kings and nearby Deir el-Bahri.

After about 45 minutes, parade ended in front of the new museum with a 21-gun salute, greeted by Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, who had inaugurated the main hall earlier that day.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo. Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, Cairo.

The National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo. Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, Cairo.

Intended as a nationalist event celebrating Egyptian history, the parade “expresses the greatness of the ancient civilization that provided humanity, and still does, with a unique and diverse legacy, contributing to its progress and prosperity,” wrote Intisar al-Sissi, Egypt’s first lady, on Facebook.

Egypt began building the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in 2002, and the project has faced numerous delays. It began welcoming visitors to view its 1,500 artifacts yesterday. The mummies will be on view in the museum’s royal hall of mummies beginning April 18. Until then, entry to the museum is half price.

See more photos of the parade and the new museum below.

Specially designed vehicles transport 22 mummies in a convoy from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, during the Pharaohs' Golden Parade in Cairo, Egypt on April 03, 2021. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Specially designed vehicles transport 22 mummies in a convoy from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, during the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade in Cairo, Egypt on April 03, 2021. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

People in ancient Egyptian outfits perform during the Pharaohs' Golden Parade in Cairo, Egypt, on April 3, 2021. Photo by Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua via Getty Images.

People in ancient Egyptian outfits perform during the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade in Cairo, Egypt, on April 3, 2021. Photo by Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua via Getty Images.

An artist in old traditional costume rides a horse-drawn carriage as specially designed vehicles transport 22 mummies in a convoy from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, during the Pharaohs' Golden Parade in Cairo, Egypt on April 03, 2021. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

An artist in old traditional costume rides a horse-drawn carriage as specially designed vehicles transport 22 mummies in a convoy from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, during the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade in Cairo, Egypt on April 03, 2021. Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

People visit the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, Egypt, April 4, 2021. Photo by Sui Xiankai/Xinhua via Getty Images.

People visit the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, Egypt, April 4, 2021. Photo by Sui Xiankai/Xinhua via Getty Images.

People visit the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, Egypt, April 4, 2021. The main hall of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization NMEC contains 1,500 artifacts and was open for visitors on Sunday, while the mummies hall will be opened on April 18 to coincide with the International Day for Monuments and Sites, also known as World Heritage Day. Photo by Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua via Getty Images.

People visit the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, Egypt, April 4, 2021. Photo by Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua via Getty Images.

People visit the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, Egypt, April 4, 2021. Photo by Sui Xiankai/Xinhua via Getty Images.

People visit the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Cairo, Egypt, April 4, 2021. Photo by Sui Xiankai/Xinhua via Getty Images.

Pharaonic artifacts displayed at the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. Photo by Jonathan Rashad/Getty Images.

Pharaonic artifacts displayed at the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. Photo by Jonathan Rashad/Getty Images.

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The Museum of the Bible Must Once Again Return Artifacts, This Time an Entire Warehouse of 5,000 Egyptian Objects


The Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC has returned some 5,000 artifacts to the Egyptian government, after years of talks between agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The objects have been held at the Museum since its opening in 2016. Egypt has been seeking repatriation of the objects, which it says were smuggled illegally out of the country, for just as long.

The objects include funerary masks; fragments of coffins; a set of portraits of the dead; heads of stone statues; manuscripts of Christian prayers written in both Arabic and Coptic, and just Arabic; and pieces of papyrus with text in Coptic and Greek, as well as hieratic and demotic script. The pieces will be displayed in Cairo’s Coptic Museum.

According to Hisham Al Laithi, who heads the country’s antiquities registration center, the objects were not taken from Egyptian warehouses or museums. Instead they were smuggled after being illegally excavated.

Artifacts returned to Egypt from the Museum of the Bible. Photo: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

Artifacts returned to Egypt from the Museum of the Bible. Photo: Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The Museum has been plagued by issues of suspicious and incomplete provenance and has returned thousands of artifacts to Iraq and Egypt since opening in 2017. Founder and board chairman Steve Green is also the president of Hobby Lobby craft stores, and has a personal collection valued at $30 million, which he began amassing in 2009.

In 2015, the Green family was investigated for importing looted clay tablets from Israel, which were shipped in 2011 to Oklahoma City, where Hobby Lobby is headquartered, with plans to be displayed at the museum when it opened. The shipment was labeled as “tile samples.” Despite the fact that the museum maintained that clerical and paperwork errors were to blame, Hobby Lobby returned more than 5,000 artifacts smuggled from Iraq and paid a $3 million fine.

In 2018, the Museum acknowledged that fragments in its Dead Sea Scrolls collection showed “characteristics inconsistent with ancient origin” after undergoing x-ray and other testing. The museum removed five of the objects, and noted that it would continue to engage researchers to verify contested artifacts. In March 2020, it was announced that all 16 fragments in the museum’s Dead Sea Scrolls were fake. The museum has also returned 13 ancient bible fragments accused of being stolen from the Egypt Exploration Society at Oxford University by a professor in the department.

Steve Green in 2017. Photo by Andre Chung for The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Steve Green in 2017. Photo by Andre Chung for The Washington Post via Getty Images.

The onslaught of bad publicity stemming from Green’s dubious collecting practices has prompted him to issue statements both about his naiveté in the early years of his acquisitions, and in the museum’s efforts to return property to their countries of origin. “The criticism of the museum resulting from my mistakes was justified,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

In a statement on the museum’s website posted this week, Green detailed the process of returning the 5,500 papyri fragments and other Egyptian artifacts, writing that on January 7, “we transferred control of the fine art storage facility that housed the 5,000 Egyptian items to the U.S. government as part of a voluntary administrative process. We understand the U.S. government has now delivered the papyri to Egyptian officials.”

The statement also announced that on January 27, the museum initiated a shipment of more than 8,000 clay objects to Baghdad’s Iraq Museum.

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