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Sunken Treasures of Egypt


Sunken Treasures

by The Egyptian Government

Excavation of the coast of Alexandria

Egypt attaches great importance to sunken antiquities under its waters. They are a source of the country's history and treasures. Sunken antiquities sites are now one of Egypt's most significant tourist attractions and the destination of divers from all over the globe.


Sunken monuments are obviously an integral part of the history of the archaeological coastal cities, parts of which still exist on land, but most of Egypt's ancient harbors are now lying in the depth of its waters.

Recent archaeological excavations for sunken antiquities revealed mysterious secrets about the submerged ancient coastal cities in the eastern port of Alexandria and the Northern Coast. An old city dating back to the Greco-Roman period has also been discovered off the northern coasts of Sinai in addition to many shipwreck sites that have been explored at Ras-al-Bar, Damietta, and Southern Sinai.

There are numerous sunken sites in Egypt. To mention but a few, as many as nine sites in the waters of Alexandria (see also Heracleum), three off the Northern Sinai coast, one at Ras-al-Bar, one at Damietta and four of the Southern Sinai coast. Authorities believe that there are also many more undiscovered sites. Most of these monuments are related to Mediterranean ports that date back to the Roman Period.

Concern for Sunken Antiquities

Statuary long buried beneath the sea

Mr. Mohammad Abdul-Maqsud, head of the Northern Egypt Monument Department at the Supreme Council for Antiquities (SCA) says the SCA pays special attention to the sunken antiquities in the Egyptian coastal governorates. Offices for sunken antiquities were established in the Sinai, at Damietta and Port Said governorates where archaeologists are being trained on diving and underwater excavation works.

Eight foreign missions have cooperated with SCA in conducting archaeological survey operations. The most recent mission was American which assumed underwater excavation works off the Northern Sinai coast using the somegraphy detection technique. Egypt is a regular participant in international conferences on sunken antiquities. It seeks, with the aid of UNESCO, to issue laws and regulations that govern the excavations for antiquities within and outside the territorial waters of Mediterranean countries.

Diving Tourism

Mr. Abdul-Maqsud says the SCA has defined many sites of sunken artifacts to be salvaged with the permission of SCA's chairman, Dr. Zahi Hawas. Most precious, golden and tiny objects are retrieved, while the immense objects and stationary artifacts are preserved as underwater museums or diving sites. As a matter of fact, diving tourism is now one of the SCA's most flourishing financial resource.

Some of the artifacts found off Alexadria will be heading for the new Antiquities Museum there

Since SCA's Sunken Monuments Department (SMD) began in 1996, the number of artifacts salvaged from different sites in Alexandria has reached 3,500. SMD has stored and documented 300 of the salvaged objects, recording their description, date of salvage, together with photographs of the objects

A complete map of Mediterranean sites encircling that sunken treasures was also created. Such sites include Qaitbey castle, the eastern port, Al Silsela, Al Shatbi, Al Ebrahimia, Sporting, Al Ma'amura, Abu Qir Bay, Nelson's Island in Abu Qir Bay.

The European Institute's mission, headed by Franc Jorio, in cooperation with SMD, has completed all marine excavation works in the eastern port in Alexandria. The mission has prepared and cleared the Timonium site where Marcus Antonius' palace was built.

The mission also cleared the wreck of a thirty-five meter Roman ship off the Alexandria's coast, where two golden coins imprinted with Emperor Antonius Pious image were discovered. These date to the second century.

The French archaeological mission currently working on a location near Qaitbey castle, has found parts of the leg and arm of a Ptolemy II statue, weighing fifteen tons. These objects were salvaged in 1995. The SCA has recently approved to place the statue in the country-yard of The Library of Alexandria.

Last Updated: June 9th, 2011

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