Three 2,000-year-old shipwrecks that hold Roman treasures have just been discovered
The ocean is a deep, dark place and one full of mysteries. It covers more than 70 percent of the planet, yet we have barely discovered any of it. In fact, we have apparently explored less than 5 percent of the ocean. That's why shows like the BBC's Blue Planet II still surprise us with strange, newly-discovered species and behaviours of the deep blue sea's residents.
But aside from the undiscovered wildlife, there are plenty of human artefacts that are waiting to be uncovered. With thousands of years of history, in which humans transported good and waged war on ships, there are bound to be plenty of sunken watercraft to unearth - as well as their (often precious) cargo.
That's what led archaeologists to study the seabed off the northern coast of Egypt, hoping to find relics of an era long gone. In Abu Qir Bay, near the harbor city of Alexandria, a recent expedition began its survey of the sunken city of Heraclion, and some of their findings are truly extraordinary.
Abu Qir Bay has been the location of a number of relics over the past few decades, usually of the Hellenistic and Roman periods. In 2000, the international team of researchers discovered remnants of the lost cities of Heraklion and Menouthis, which were described at the time as “one of the most exciting finds in the history of marine archaeology.” It's in this bay that three Roman shipwrecks have been found, each of which are approximately 2,000 years old.
They have already recovered part of a crystal statuette of a prestigious general, and gold coins dating back to Rome's first emperor. In a statement on Facebook, Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities revealed what they had found in these waters, with images to back up their claims. The dating of these shipwrecks was worked out using the coins that they discovered, which depict Rome's first emperor Augustus, who ruled the empire between 27 BCE to 14 BCE.
Dr Mostafa Waziri, the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the head of the crystal statue is believed to depict the Roman general Marcus Antonius, aka Marc Antony, perhaps best known for his love affair with Queen Cleopatra - a tale immortalized in William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra.
Back in 2000, French marine archaeologist Granck Goddio explained why this area is so important:
"In the ancient world, a major center of various religions and cults existed here."
"These cities were not only renowned for their riches and lifestyle, but also for their many temples dedicated to the gods Serapis, Isis, and Anubis."
Many have theorized that these cities are likely to be where the Roman ships, carrying gold coins and crystal statuettes, would have been heading to. The harbour is believed to hold even more treasures, as there were wooden beams and pottery vessels found, that may have been the cargo of a fourth shipwreck. They are hoping that when it comes to the mission's next search in 2018, they could find its precious and historically-significant contents.