Catalogue of the exhibition “Tesoros Sumergidos de Egipto”
Matadero de Legazpi, Madrid
16 April - 28 September 2008
Economic growth came early to the Bay of Aboukir, well before the founding of Alexandria by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. The city’s location at the mouth of the Nile made it a crossroads between Egypt and the other civilisations along the Mediterranean. Thus the names of cities like Canopus, Heracleion, Thonis and Menutis, mentioned by ancient authors, were vibrant with visions of magnificence – but archaeologists could not locate them. The mystery was solved when Franck Goddio’s team, backed by state of the art technology, set out to draw up a geophysical map of the region and established that in the 8th century BC part of the coastline had collapsed and was now six metres below sea level.
With this subsidence exacerbated by substantial deposits of alluvium due to the ocean currents, the world had lost sight of sixteen centuries of one the richest civilisations in the history of Egypt, from the Predynastic Period through to the Arab conquest of the 7th century AD.
Ever coveted for its riches, the Nile delta had seen its civilisation influenced by a succession of conquerors: the Persians, Greeks and the long dynasty of the Ptolemies; then the Romans – with the famous love affair between Julius Caesar and Cleopatra; the rise of Christianity, which led to the destruction of the figures of pagan deities but also to their unconscious assimilation; and lastly the Arab conquest. A slow process of acculturation revolutionised the divine pantheon, bringing an emphasis on the worship of Isis, Osiris and Serapis, and infiltrated everyday life, affecting the way Egyptians saw a world that was to become the cradle of Western civilisation.
The exhibition comprises 500 objects, all of them listed and explained in the catalogue. For the first time there can be seen, under one roof, the components of a Ptolemaic temple, its naos, three colossal statues from its entrance and ritual items found in immediate proximity. Nearby, at the time, were a host of craftsmen turning out votive objects, pottery and jewellery for the pilgrims. Hidden or protected by the water, these artefacts now give us a clearer view than ever before of the extraordinary mix of cultures and peoples that made the Nile delta what it was.
Prestel Verlag 2008
24 x 28 cm hard cover
ISBN 978-3-7913-3970-2 (English)
400 pages, 600 colour illustrations, 10 maps
2nd revised and updated edition for the exhibition in Madrid, published April 2008
The catalogue is available from the bookshops.
For information about other publications by Franck Goddio please refer to the Franck Goddio Society website.