Sunken Cities

Egypt's Lost Worlds

March 25 - September 9, 2018

“...smart, story-driven, artistic, scientific, and magical.”
– St. Louis Magazine
The bust of the colossal statue of the god Hapy has been strapped with webbings before being cautiously raised out of the water of Aboukir Bay, Egypt; IEASM Excavations; Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation

Sunken Cities

Egypt's Lost Worlds

March 25 - September 9, 2018

“...smart, story-driven, artistic, scientific, and magical.”
– St. Louis Magazine
Colossal statue of of the god Hapy
The bust of the colossal statue of the god Hapy has been strapped with webbings before being cautiously raised out of the water of Aboukir Bay, Egypt; IEASM Excavations; Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation
“...this is a show to move you to tears of wonder.”
– The Times, London
Osirian divinities set up on the bottom of Aboukir Bay - bronze statuettes discovered on the site on Heracleion, Egypt, 6th- 2nd century BC; IEASM Excavations; Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation
“...this is a show to move you to tears of wonder.”
– The Times, London
Osirian divinities on the bottom of Aboukir Bay
Osirian divinities set up on the bottom of Aboukir Bay - bronze statuettes discovered on the site on Heracleion, Egypt, 6th- 2nd century BC; IEASM Excavations; Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation
“...spectacularly beautiful...”
– Hyperallergic
Archaeologist eye to eye to with a sphinx underwater, Eastern Harbor, Alexandria, Egypt, 1st century BC; granodiorite; 27 9/16 x 59 1/16 inches; National Museum of Alexandria (SCA 450); IEASM Excavations; Photos: Jèrôme Delafosse © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation
“...spectacularly beautiful...”
– Hyperallergic
Colossal statue of a Ptolemaic king reassembled underwater
Archaeologist eye to eye to with a sphinx underwater, Eastern Harbor, Alexandria, Egypt, 1st century BC; granodiorite; 27 9/16 x 59 1/16 inches; National Museum of Alexandria (SCA 450); IEASM Excavations; Photos: Jèrôme Delafosse © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation
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Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds

March 25 - September 9, 2018

In 2018, the Saint Louis Art Museum will be the first North American art museum to tell the epic story of one of the greatest finds in the history of underwater archaeology, a story that revealed two lost cities of ancient Egypt submerged under the Mediterranean Sea for over a thousand years. World-renowned underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team discovered these submerged worlds and uncovered stunning ancient religious, ceremonial, and commercial artifacts, which has led to a greater understanding of life during the age of pharaohs.

More than 200 of these authentic artifacts, including three colossal 16-foot sculptures of a pharaoh, a queen, and a god will be on view. Objects range from the colossal sculptures to precious gold coins and jewelry, bronze vessels, objects inscribed in the ancient Egyptian or Greek languages, and statues from the sunken and forgotten ancient cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus. They will be seen alongside ancient Egyptian artifacts from museums in Cairo and Alexandria, many of which have never been on view in the United States.

The exhibition is curated by Franck Goddio. The presentation in St. Louis is co-curated by Lisa Çakmak, the associate curator of ancient art.

An archaeologist inspects the still-encrusted head of a statue of a queen on site underwater in Thonis-Heracleion
An archaeologist inspects the still-encrusted head of a statue of a queen on site underwater in Thonis-Heracleion, Ptolemaic period (332-30 BC); granodiorite; height: 86 5/8 inches; National Museum of Alexandria (SCA 283); IEASM Excavations; Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation

Members See it Free

Enhance your experience of Sunken Cities and other upcoming exhibitions and programs by becoming a Museum Member. For information, visit members.slam.org or call 314.655.5335.

All Members enjoy:

  • Free admission to all exhibitions (two tickets per visit)
  • Invitations to Members-only exhibition previews and special events
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Visitor and Family Experiences

Rendering of the Town of Thonis-Heracleion
Rendering of the town of Thonis-Heracleion; Artist rendering / oder 3D / oder Inforgraphy: Yann Bernard © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation

The Sunken Cities

Before the founding of Alexandria in 331 BC, Thonis-Heracleion (the Egyptian and Greek names of the city) was the primary port of entry to Egypt for all ships coming from the Greek world. It was also an important religious center. The nearby city of Canopus, often mentioned by classical authors and religious leaders, was famous for its temples, and was believed to be sites of miraculous healing. However, prior to their discovery in 2000, no trace of either city had been found. Many wondered, were these cities real or merely myth?

Franck Goddio’s discovery revealed that the cities were indeed real, and had lay at the mouth of the Nile, 30 feet below the surface of the Mediterranean Sea, for more than 1200 years. Their submersion was completed in the 8th century, possibly by an earthquake, or other upheavals, some associated with tidal waves. This, combined with the unstable sediment on which the cities were built, ultimately led to their demise.

Catalogue

From Myth to Reality

stele of Thonis-Heracleion Abukir Bay
The stele of Thonis-Heracleion raised under water on site in the bay of Aboukir, Thonis-Heracleion, Aboukir Bay, Egypt; National Museum of Alexandria (SCA 277); IEASM Excavations; Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation

Discovery

In 1933, a Royal Air Force pilot spotted dark shadows in the water of Aboukir Bay in the Mediterranean Sea, leading to the discovery of several objects from Canopus dating from the Ptolemaic Period. Six decades later, Franck Goddio and the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM,) in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities, began research to determine the location and topography of the currently submerged ancient zones of the eastern harbor of Alexandria and of Aboukir Bay. Utilizing sophisticated technical equipment Goddio and his team were able to locate, map, and excavate parts of Canopus and Thonis-Heracleion and confirm that the region had indeed once been an important center of trade and site of religious pilgrimage. The excavation has also helped scholars understand the Mysteries of Osiris, an annual festival that commemorated one of Egypt's most important myths—the murder and resurrection of the god Osiris.

A team of underwater archaeologists, led by Goddio, continues to tirelessly explore the submerged land off the Mediterranean coast. This ambitious 25-year-long project covers a vast area the size of Paris and brings to light findings of antiquities of considerable importance, transforming our understanding of the extensive exchange of goods and ideas between Egypt and its Mediterranean neighbors.

Excavations are carried out under the supervision of both the IEASM and the Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities. The archaeological work of Franck Goddio has been supported since 1996 by the Hilti Foundation.

The awakening of Osiris
The awakening of Osiris; 26th dynasty (664-525 BC); gneiss, gold, electrum, bronze; Egyptian Museum, Cairo (CGC 38424); Photo: Christoph Gerigk © Franck Goddio / Hilti Foundation

Sunken Cities

Egypt's Lost Worlds

March 25 - September 9, 2018

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"...Spectacular and absorbing..."

-The Evening Standard


Sunken Cities: Egypt's Lost Worlds is organized by the European Institute for
Underwater Archaeology
with the generous support of the Hilti Foundation and in
collaboration with the Ministry of Antiquities of the Arab Republic of Egypt.


The exhibition is presented in St. Louis by the William T. Kemper Foundation –
Commerce Bank, Trustee





Lead corporate support for the St. Louis presentation is provided by Edward Jones
with major support from the E. Desmond Lee Family Endowment for Exhibitions.
Additional support is provided by Wells Fargo Advisors and Drury Hotels.
Promotional partnership courtesy of Explore St. Louis.



The Saint Louis Art Museum receives annual operating support from the
Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts.