Herodotus and Homer mentioned it, Helen of Troy and Paris visited it, stone slabs talked about its demise….and yet for many centuries it was commonly thought to be a myth because of the lack of evidence of its existence.
Yet the Egyptian city of Heracleion, also known as Thonis, considered legend for 1,200 years, has been right under our noses this whole time, and exactly where everyone said it was: right on the Bay of Aboukir, the most important port for Egyptian trade in the ancient world. However, when it collapsed and sank beneath the sea because of an unstable foundation, the whole city was buried under 150 feet of water and sediment.
Over thousand years ago, Heracleion was the center for Egyptian trading since it conveniently stood at the mouth of the River Nile delta. It was one of the cities where camels lined up to take their loads over the famous Silk Road. Over 64 ships containing gold coins and weights of bronze and stone have been discovered on the bottom of the sea, showing that even when the city was showing signs of shifting and some parts of the city were underwater already, trading was still continuing. When the last of the city disappeared, a huge tsunami must have sunk the ships.
But this ancient catastrophe means a modern field day for archaeologists. All the statues, slabs, buildings, and such are beautifully preserved, allowing for a better glimpse into this interesting culture. Giant 16 foot statues as well as hundreds of smaller statues of minor gods have been uncovered on the sea floor, as well as dozens of small sarcophagi and slabs of stones with Greek and Egyptian inscriptions.
Huge ships, much larger than any previously found, accompanied with over 700 ancient anchors have been found, showing just how incredible their shipbuilding skills were, and how little we understand the advanced mathematics involved. Right now, the whole city, complete with an almost perfectly preserved infrastructure is being uncovered.
Slabs, which contain information on taxation on imports and exports are being deciphered, showing how the government ran. Previous detailed understanding of the government has not been possible because all the informative slabs in Egyptian cities that had been conquered by other cultures had all the slabs destroyed as a part of annihilation.