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Treasures from the deep
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 13 - 04 - 2006

YESTERDAY a Beluga Airbus, the world's largest cargo carrier, landed at Borg Al-Arab Airport near Alexandria to collect 371 of the precious artefacts which have been brought up from Egypt's Mediterranean sea bed over the last six years, reports Nevine El-Aref.
They will be transported to the Martin-Gropius- Bau Museum in Berlin, Germany, where the first- ever international exhibition of "Egypt's Sunken Treasures" will be held. From 13 May to 4 September Germans and their neighbours will have a chance to admire the testament to an ancient culture that had lain forgotten for 1,500 years. "Egypt's Sunken Treasures" will display unique finds discovered during Frank Goddio's underwater expeditions with the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) at two legendary sites: Alexandria's ancient Eastern Harbour, with the submerged part of the royal quarter, and the ancient towns of Heracleion and Canopus off the coast at Abu Qir.
Among the objects on show are three gigantic pink granite colossi featuring the Nile god Hapi, a Ptolemaic king and an unidentified Egyptian queen dressed as the goddess Isis. A customs stela from Heracleion with inscriptions in two languages, hieroglyphic and Greek, will also be on show along with sphinx statues which probably represent Queen Cleopatra's father Ptolemy XII, a head of god Serapis and a black granite shrine known as the "naos of the decades", which is covered with figures and hieroglyphic texts relating to the ancient calendar.
Pots and pans, knives, forks, bottles and plates from Heracleion will be on show along with navigational instruments, cannons, swords and guns from Napoleon's fleet, which sunk during the naval Battle of Abu Qir against Nelson's British fleet in 1798.
The exhibition will also provide spectacular insight into the mysteries of the underwater world and the adventurous and fascinating work of the divers and underwater archaeologists. Photographs will feature underwater archeologists, while a documentary film on the several excavation seasons will be also screened.
Also participating is the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, allied to Oxford University, which will conduct a scientific symposium in Berlin to accompany the exhibition.
Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, head of the SCA's central administration for Ancient Egyptian antiquities, said most of the objects, especially the colossal statues, had been carefully prepared for their voyage to Berlin. Some heavy items were shipped on 16 March, and on 16 April the Beluga will return to Alexandria to collect smaller gold objects and jewellery. Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, said the objects had been insured for more than LE41 million.
Culture minister Farouk Hosni said that in November the exhibition will travel to Paris, where it will go on show at the Grand Palais. It is expected that revenues from the first tour will reach LE12 million (600,000 Euros).
photo: Gamal Said

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