Prior to its discovery in 2000 by archaeologist Franck Goddio and the IEASM (European Institute for Underwater Archaeology), no trace of Thonis-Heracleion had been found (the city was known to the Greeks as Thonis). Its name was almost razed from the memory of mankind, only preserved in ancient classic texts and rare inscriptions found on land by archaeologists.
Findings to date include:
- The remains of more than 64 ships buried in the thick clay and sand that covers the sea bed
- Gold coins and weights made from bronze and stone
- Giant 16-ft statues along with hundreds of smaller statues of minor gods
- Slabs of stone inscribed in both ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian
- Dozens of small limestone sarcophagi believed to have once contained mummified animals
- Over 700 ancient anchors for ships
What Caused the Submergence?
Analysis of the site also suggests liquefaction of the soil. These localized phenomena can be triggered by the action of great pressure on soil with a high clay and water content. The pressure from large buildings, combined with an overload of weight due to an unusually high flood or a tidal wave, can dramatically compress the soil and force the expulsion of water contained within the structure of the clay. The clay quickly loses volume, which creates sudden subsidence. An earthquake can also cause such a phenomenon. These factors, whether occurring together or independently, may have caused significant destruction and explain the submergence of Thonis-Heracleion.
Photograph by Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation / Christoph Gerigk