Out of Egypt

Myths and facts were brought together this week by the news of giant statues that have been retrieved from shallow water 5kms offshore of Alexandria in Egypt. They are from the sunken city of Herakleion that was the main port to the region 2,500 years ago.

.Image    One of the statues is of Hapi, god of the Nile, a popular icon of this time. It was the beginning of the Archaic Period which lasted a thousand years for the duration of the Greek Empire. It was also the beginning of civilisation in Europe, with the building of the Acropolis in Athens and the creation of familiar art on pottery and other surfaces.

220px-Amphora_warriors_Louvre_E866                                 220px-Loutrophoros_Analatos_Louvre_CA2985_n2

In our more recent times deep-sea drilling has enabled geologists to understand how the tectonic plate of Africa is moving north to push against that of south east Europe. The island of Crete is particularly vulnerable to these movements and a big earthquake offshore in AD365 tipped the whole island and devastated the towns there. The resulting tsunami wrecked civilisations in Greece, Libya and Egypt and the sea rose to cover the city of Herakleion.  The world sea level was also rising as polar ice melted from the recent Ice Age.

           450px-Seaward_Baths,_Sabratha            365_Crete_Earthquake,_Apollonia,_Pier_(Jona)

baths at Sabratha, Libya                                         harbour at Apollonia, Libya

Some geologists say that another earthquake at the same tectonic plate boundary is expected soon.

ftp://ftp.gps.caltech.edu/pub/avouac/Ge277-2013/Biblio/Shaw-NGEO-2008.pdf

2 comments on “Out of Egypt

  1. Tom Windle says:

    What a strange topic to include in your blog – still most interesting – made me dash to Google for more references.
    I think some scholars might argue that Greek civilisations were well past their sell by date by 365 AD – to me the acme was more in the 5th century BC – Pericles and all that. As to classical and ancient civilisations they came to an end with Constantine (emperor 306 – 337 AD) when he adopted Christianity as the state religion.
    That said the Mediterranean has had a long history of tectonic instability – perhaps the best known being the ‘Atlantis’ myth which of course was not a myth at all as testified by the devastating eruption at Santorini ~ 1500 – 1600 BC.
    Your final comment is slightly ominous – I shall be careful where I take my holidays in the Mediterranean!
    Not long ago I visited the Bay of Naples and Pompeii / Herculaneum (which reminds me there is an exhibition at the British Museum which I must visit). The whole area is totally dominated by Vesuvius which some believe is about ready to erupt as it did in 79 AD. There appears to be a quite well defined periodicity ot Vesuvius eruptions. Lord knows how one would evacuate such a populated area. Nature and science preserved a lot of art and artefacts for posterity – even if in a rather destructive manner.

    • Thanks, Tom. Isn’t it wonderful how such different things as Greek pots and plate tectonics are part of the same tale. It’s just by extending time scales that apparently different cultures merge into the same sequence of events.

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