It was a day like any other, except for one highlight- it was the day that famous underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio set out to find the long lost city of Canopus off Aboukir Bay. And indeed, he found it, its granite and limestone walls protruding in the low-visibility waters. Accompanied by more than 40 Egyptologists and other experts, he worked towards bringing to light its contents, which included the colossal head of Greco-Egyptian god Serapis, the master of healing. It would be the first of many underwater cities to be discovered by Goddio. In other words, that one expedition would pioneer the ones to follow.
After that, Goddio devoted his energies to the coast of the Philippines and other parts of the world. But for the last two decades he focussed entirely on an area approximately 20 miles off the coast of Alexandria. It was there that he discovered Canopus and later, another lost city called Thonis-Heracleion. Both of these cities were supposedly built on unstable ground and sank into the sea after a while. According to Goddio, now 69, Thonis-Heracleion is a city that covers almost three times the area covered by Pompeii. And if Pompeii hasn’t been fully excavated till now, even though it is on dry land, how long will it take to unearth this particular city that has lain undisturbed underwater for thousands of years?
You see, archaeology isn’t what Indiana Jones did in the movies. It’s a much, much more difficult and painstaking process. Especially if you have to do everything under the sea. here’s what Franck has to say about it: “I am the exact contrary to Indiana Jones,” he says. “I am not looking for treasure. I am looking for history. Every day we find fabulous artefacts – but a fabulous artefact can be a shard of ceramic that will tell us something about an area that we did not know.” You can view the artefacts and statues he discovered in the British Museum’s ongoing Sunken Cities exhibition.
Even though Goddio is an author, that’s not why I featured him in my blog. I did that because he influenced me largely into becoming who I am today.I was never so awed and inspired by a man as I was by Goddio. He may not know it, but he has definitely motivated a lot of young minds and stirred their interest in history. While the rest of the world was clamouring after an imaginary Atlantis, Goddio silently went on with his work and showed the world civilizations that were worth a hundred imaginary islands combined together. As a dedicated archaeologist,author and the founder of IEASM (Institut Européen d’archéologie Sous-Marine) he not only eternalized history, but also uncovered enigmas that would otherwise have slept silently in the colossal ruins of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus.
Featured photograph: Courtesy http://www.franckgoddio.org
©CHRISTOPH GERIGK © FRANCK GODDIO – HILTI FOUNDATION
Image used for educational purposes only.