2023's Archaeological Wonders: A Year of Thrilling Discoveries

By Jack Ripley | February 16, 2024

Treasures of the Deep: Discovering Aphrodite's Shrine in Egypt's Sunken City

Delve into the thrilling world of archaeology as we embark on a journey through the remarkable discoveries of 2023. Join us in unveiling the hidden treasures, ancient mysteries, and long-forgotten civilizations that have resurfaced in the past year. From sunken cities to lost palaces, each find is a testament to human ingenuity and the relentless pursuit of our shared history. Step back in time and witness the wonders that the sands of time have graciously revealed.

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Christoph Gerigk ©Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation

Deep beneath the waters of the Bay of Aboukir in the Mediterranean Sea lies the sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion, once Egypt's bustling port for centuries before Alexandria's rise under Alexander the Great in 331 B.C.E. This ancient metropolis met its watery fate, succumbing to the forces of rising sea levels, earthquakes, and tsunamis, eventually vanishing beneath the waves, along with a significant portion of the Nile delta. Lost to the annals of history for centuries, it wasn't until the 21st century that archaeologists embarked on the quest to unveil its mysteries.

In their most recent mission, these modern-day explorers have uncovered remarkably well-preserved subterranean structures beneath the temple. Composed of wooden posts and beams dating back to the 5th century B.C.E., these underground marvels offer a rare glimpse into the city's past. Employing cutting-edge geophysical prospecting technologies, the team penetrated yards of clay to reveal hidden chambers and buried artifacts. Among their finds, a newfound sanctuary dedicated to Aphrodite hints at a robust Greek presence in Thonis-Heracleion, shedding light on the city's rich tapestry of cultures and civilizations that once thrived in this submerged world.

Herculean Mysteries Unearthed: A Roman Sewer's Hidden Treasure

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Parco Archeologico dell'Appia Antica, Rome

Beneath the bustling streets of Rome, construction workers undertaking the restoration of a century-old sewer recently made an astonishing discovery—a life-sized marble sculpture depicting a man adorned as the legendary Hercules, recognizable by his distinctive lion-skin headdress. Situated along the historic Appian Way, this remarkable find has piqued the curiosity of archaeologists and art enthusiasts alike. Led by 27-year-old archaeologist Federica Acierno, experts are carefully studying and cleaning the statue, despite both of its legs being broken. Remarkably, the statue's base, complete with its feet, has also been unearthed.

However, the mystery deepens as it appears the sculpture was intentionally buried within the sewer pipe a century ago, some 65 feet below the current street level. Due to its displacement from its original location, dating the artwork becomes a challenge. Instead, experts are relying on its physical characteristics. Notably, the statue's weathered face bears a striking resemblance to Emperor Gaius Messius Quintus Traianus Decius, also known as Decio Traiano, based on known coins featuring his likeness. Decio Traiano ruled from 249 to 251, raising intriguing questions about the statue's origin and its connection to this enigmatic emperor.