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Nearly Complete Ancient Cities Found Underwater Off Egypt

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (Reuters) - Archaeologists showed off relics retrieved from the nearly complete ruins of ancient cities they said they had discovered on the seabed off the Egyptian coast.

The joint French and Egyptian team said the cities of Menouthif and Herakleion, submerged more than 1,000 years ago, lay in five to 10 meters (15-30 feet) of water about six km (3.75 miles) off the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

``We are very excited because we are used to finding the remains of a tomb, a church or a mosque, but this time we are finding complete cities -- cities that were heard about from the classical writings,'' said Gaballah Ali Gaballah, head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.

``Most probably they disappeared because of seismic causes,'' said Franck Goddio, head



of the Paris-based European Institute of Marine Archaeology.

A rise in the Mediterranean sea level and sudden submersion caused by earthquake, or climate changes, could explain the annihilation of the cities, he said.

The cities were legendary in antiquity for their wealth and arts as well as their many temples dedicated to the gods Serapis, Isis and Osiris.

An intricately carved 1.5-meter (five-foot) black granite statue of Isis was shown to the media after being raised from the seabed.

Also discovered during two years of undersea exploration were the head of a pharaonic statue of a sphinx, jewellery and gold coins dating from the Byzantine and Islamic eras.

The archaeologists said the coins showed the region had not been submerged until the eighth century, although the cities had been founded many hundreds of years earlier.

The archaeologists said they had also identified two other submerged cities in the same area, Canopus and Thonis, but had not yet retrieved relics from them.


By Reim Bashir

(This news update is courtesy of News Service,  which has a complete daily news service from around the world)

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