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Les Tresors Egloutis d'Egypte/ Egypt's Sunken Treasures

Ana Lee, guest writing for IVY Paris

This landmark exhibition at the Grand Palais-- until the 16th of March 2007-- uncovers the mysteries of the ancient harbour of Alexandria with its royal dwellings, the lost city of Herakleion, and Eastern Canopus, displaying egyptian remains dating from the 7th century BC to the 8th century AD.

Scientific studies say the cities sank into the bay when turbulent floodwaters turned the soft ground beneath them into a soup of sediment. The disappearance of these cities has been blamed on earthquakes, subsidence and rising sea levels. The ruins of the two long lost Greek cities of Eastern Canopus and Herakleion were uncovered by marine archaeologist Franck Goddio who spent 10 years resurfacing the treasures now displayed.

Some 500 pieces are shown for the first time illustrating the history of Egypt from the last Pharaohs to Alexander the Great, the Hellenic conquests to the Roman Empire, and the Christian era to the rise of Islam. These finds witness the dominance and richness of the three cities in business, science, religion, and culture -- a juncture where new lifestyles were born.

On entering the Grand Palais, the spectator is first lead into an introductory hall, with a piece from each city. Timelines and various models help one place the ancient cities historically and geographically. The models show that both Eastern Canopus and Heraleion once stood at the mouth of a now-extinct branch of the Nile - where they could control incoming vessels and tax goods being shipped upriver. Today the nearest branch of the Nile lies more than 20 kilometres to the east of Abu Qir bay.

The exhibition is designed to resemble the sunken cities and not only focuses on the artifacts themselves but also on the process of their discovery. Giant panels of photographs taken underwater line the walls, recreating a deep sea ambiance and invoke excitement as one explores. The pieces are also accompanied by screens documenting the progress of marine archaelogists and their techniques used to resurface the artifacts.

The exhibition is divided thematically, among the finds on show are three giant pink granite colossi featuring the Nile god Hapi, the statue of a Ptolemaic king and unidentified Egyptian queen dressed as
Isis, a customs stelae from Heracleion with inscriptions in hieroglyphs and Greek, a black granite sphinx representing Ptolemy XII, father of the famous Cleopatra, a head of Serapis and--my personal favorite--the Naos of the Decades:  a black granite shrine embedded with figures and hieroglyphic texts relating to the ancient calendar. Also on display are various objects of the quotidian, pots, pans, jewelry and ritual objects.

Today these legendary places live again, and the beautiful contrast of the egyptian artifacts, the deep sea panels and grand palais glass ceilings are not to be missed--not to mention these artifacts might not be displayed for another 10 years.

The exhibition is open Mon, Tue, and Thurs from 10am to 8pm and Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun from 10am to 10pm.
For more information click here.

The line is long but it's worth the wait, and you can consider the school of people part of the "underwater ambiance."
I personally walked out wanting to rent an Indiana Jones movie.

Special thanks to Ludwig von Bomhard

Pain, Stephanie. "Ancient cities vanished into muddy morass.": 18 July 2001 New Scientist Environment. Online. Internet.
El-Aref, Nevine: "Paris plunges into Egyptology": 14-20 December 2006 El-Ahram Weekly Online. Online. Internet


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