Real-Life Atlantis: Lost Ancient Egyptian City Sunk Underwater Centuries Ago

December 10, 2014 Updated: July 18, 2015


Archaeologists have been investigating the lost, ancient city of Thonis-Heracleion, which sunk under the Mediterranean Sea thousands of years ago.

It was discovered in 2000 in the Abu Qir Bay near Alexandria, Egypt by a team of archaeologists led by Franck Goddio.

The city had been a port in northern Egypt. According to The Mirror, archaeologists have discovered the wreckages of sunken ships, gold coins, and statues.

Stone slabs with Greek and Ancient Egyptian inscriptions were also discovered.

It’s unclear why the city–built in the eighth century BC–sunk into the Mediterranean Sea. It was located in the mouth of the Nile River delta.

Some say that Paris and Helen of Troy were stranded in the city as they were fleeing from Menelaus before the Trojan War started. The city was also mentioned by Greek historians.

READ: Atlantis May Have Been in Bolivia?




Underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio said the city was found after a three-year expedition.

He told the paper: “The discoveries enhance the importance of the specific location of the city standing at the ‘Mouth of the Sea of the Greek’.”

He added: “We will probably have to continue working for the next 200 years for Thonis-Heracleion to be fully revealed and understood.”

As the Daily Telegraph notes, the city was the main customs transport hub into ancient Egypt. 

The location of where the city sank in Abu Qir Bay (Google)
The location of where the city sank in Abu Qir Bay (Google)

Damian Robinson, the head of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology at the University of Oxford, told the Telegraph: “The site has amazing preservation. We are now starting to look at some of the more interesting areas within it to try to understand life there.

“We are getting a rich picture of things like the trade that was going on there and the nature of the maritime economy in the Egyptian late period. There were things were coming in from Greece and the Phoenicians.”

The city is believed to have flourished in the 6th to the 4th century BC.

Archaeologists believe it sank in the 8th century AD because of liquefaction of the silts the it was built on. “The city was founded probably around the 8th century BC, underwent diverse natural catastrophes, and finally sunk entirely into the depths of the Mediterranean in the 8th century AD,” says Goddio on his website.