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Research Report: Thonis-Heracleion, Emporion of Egypt, Recent Discoveries and Research Perspectives: The Shipwrecks

David Fabre & Franck Goddio


The European Institute of Underwater Archaeology’s work on the city of Thonis-Heracleion, which is located in the submerged Canopic region in the west of the Egyptian Nile Delta, has revealed this ancient port-city in all of its detail. From the 8th century BCE, this town was the custom and border post and the emporion that controlled access to the Canopic channel, traded with the Greek regions, and supervised foreign ships. This paper will highlight the discovery of over 60 shipwrecks, dating from the 6th to the 2nd centuries BCE, which demonstrate the intense maritime and fluvial activity in this coastal region. Each shipwreck was radiocarbon dated and a paleobotanical examination of its structural timbers was carried out in order to assess the wood species used in the construction of the vessels. These data constitute an exceptional source of primary evidence to pursue investigations of the development of shipbuilding in the eastern Mediterranean, and of maritime trade and regional connectivity and finally on the interaction between human society/topography of the town and the natural environment.


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