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Traveling Along:Leukaspis, Egypt by Bob Nicolaides


Traveling Along… with Bob Nicolaides
Leukaspis, Egypt

leukaspis, Egypt

Today, it's a sprawl of luxury vacation homes where Egypt's wealthy play on the white beaches of the Mediterranean coast. But 2,000 years ago, this was a thriving Greco-Roman port city, boasting villas of merchants grown rich on the wheat and olive trade. The ancient city, known as Leukaspis or Antiphrae, (the former meaning white shield in Greek and the second one a Greek word as well ) was  hidden for centuries after it was nearly wiped out by a fourth century tsunami that devastated the region.

More recently, it was nearly buried under the modern resort of Marina in a development craze that turned this coast into the summer playground for Egypt's elite. Nearly 25 years after its discovery, Egyptian authorities are preparing to open ancient Leukaspis' tombs, villas and city streets to visitors — a rare example of a Classical era city in a country better known for its Pyramids and
Pharaonic temples."Visitors can go there to understand how people lived back then, how they built their graves, lived in villas or traded in the main agora (square)," said Ahmed Amin, the local inspector for the antiquities department. "Everyone's heard of the resort Marina, now they will know the historic Marina." The history of the two Marinas is inextricably linked. When Chinese engineers began cutting into the sandy coast to build the roads for the new resort in 1986, they struck the ancient tombs and houses of a town founded in the second century B.C. About 200 acres were set aside for archaeology, while everywhere else along the coast up sprouted holiday villages for Egyptians escaping the stifling summer heat of the interior for the Mediterranean's cool breezes.

The ancient city yielded up its secrets in a much more gradual fashion to a team of Polish archaeologists excavating the site through the 1990s. A portrait emerged of a prosperous port town, with up to 15,000 residents at its height, exporting grains, livestock, wine and olives to the rest of the Mediterranean.

Photo by Nasser Nasser, AP

 Merchants lived in elegant two-story villas set along zigzagging streets with pillared courtyards flanked by living and prayer rooms. Rainwater collected from roofs ran down special hollowed out pillars into channels under the floor leading to the family cisterns. Waste disappeared into a sophisticated sewer system. Around the town center, where the two main streets intersect, was the social and economic heart of the city and there can still be found the remains of a basilica, a hall for public events that became a church after Christianity spread across the Roman Empire. A semicircular niche lined with benches underneath a portico provided a space for town elders to discuss business before retiring to the bathhouse across the street. Greek columns and bright limestone walls up to six feet high stand in some places, reflecting the sun in an electric blue sky over the dark waters of the nearby sea. Visitors will also be able to climb down the steep shafts of the rock-cut tombs to the deeply buried burial chambers of
 the city's necropolis.


It is from the sea from which the city gained much of its livelihood. It began as a way station in the coastal trade between Egypt and Libya to the west. Later, it began exporting goods from its surrounding farms overseas, particularly to the island of Crete, just 300 miles away — a shorter trip than that from Egypt's main coastal city, Alexandria. And from the sea came its end. Leukaspis was largely destroyed when a massive earthquake near Crete in 365 A.D. set off a tsunami wave that also devastated nearby Alexandria. In the ensuing centuries, tough economic times and a collapsing Roman Empire meant that most settlements along the coast disappeared. Today, the remains of the port are lost. In the late 1990s, an artificial lagoon was built, surrounded by summer homes for top government officials.

If the old Marina is a success then similar transformation could happen to a massive temple of Osiris just 30 miles (50 kilometers) away, where a Dominican archaeological team is searching for the burial place of the doomed Classical lovers, Anthony and Cleopatra. "The plan is to do the same for Taposiris Magna so that tourists can visit both," said Khaled Aboul- Hamd, antiquities director for the region. These north coast ruins may also attract the attention of the visitors to the nearby El-Alamein battlefield and cemeteries for the World War II battle that Winston Churchill once called the turning point of the war. In fact, there are signs the allied troops took refuge in the deep rock cut tombs of Marina, just six miles from the furthest point of the Axis advance on Alexandria. Crouched down awaiting the onslaught of German Gen. Rommel's famed Afrika Corps, the young British Tommies would have shared space with the rib bones and skull fragments of Marina's inhabitants in burial chambers hidden 25 feet below ground.

 It is prudent to say that modern day Egyptians should not monopolize the Pharaonic time finds, for the inhabitants of today’s Egypt are the same race as the Libyans, the Syrians and the Saudis, meaning they are the descendents of the Islamic conquerors who spread all over North Africa and the Arab peninsula after the Prophet Mohammed set out to conquer the world for his new religion. That happened just about 700 AD. The real Egyptians of the Pharaonic Egypt are now a miniscule minority of Christians called Copts and Maronites, the first being Orthodox and the second Catholic..

The Ulysses Palace in Exogi, Ithaca: Unearthed after 60 years of work
The Ulysses Palace in Exogi, Ithaca: Unearthed after 60 years of work

 Rember how flew for years that ancient Ithaca wasn’t located in Ithaca, but most likely in an adjacent island? Well here comes professor Thanasis Papadopoulos of the University of Yiannena dispelling all of this myth and placing ancient Ithaca squarely where Ithaca is! How? By unearthing a Palace of the Mycenaean era, right where it belonged, one that most likely is where Penelope’s pretenders may have gotten slaughtered by the returning Ulysses and his son Telemachos. The team of  archeologists excavating for years now, uncovered a three-level Palace in the district of Exogis, with stairwells, carved out from the rock, as well as other relics of  the Mycenaean period, such as ceramics, plates with Linear B characters. Similar palaces have been unearthed in Mycenae, Pylos and Tirynth, which give rise to the theory that this just has to belong to Ulysses of Homeric fame. The theory is further supported by the discovery of a water fountain dating from the 13th Century BC, the time at which scientists place the existence of the ‘mythical’ King.  Actually, after 60 years of excavations by the British, the German magazine  Cadmus brought to light on November of 2006, the discovery of a plate on which one of the episodes from Odyssey is narrated in a stylish way. The plate depicts a ship with Ulysses tied to the mast and surrounded by monstrous figures, a trident and characters possibly of Linear B…..A survey at the Bronze Age community of Politiko-Troullia opens an archaeological window on the farming and mining communities that provided the foundation for urbanized civilization on Cyprus. According to an announcement issued by the Department of Antiquities, Ministry of Communications and Works, the archaeological investigations at the Bronze Age community of Politiko-Troullia, lying about 25 km southwest of the capital of Nicosia near Ayios Irakleidios Monastery, have been completed for 2010. The excavations were conducted under the direction of Dr. Steven Falconer and Dr. Patricia Fall of Arizona State University. This year’s fieldwork revealed extensive evidence of the Bronze Age community that was the predecessor of ancient Tamassos, the seat of an important kingdom during the subsequent Iron Age. The archaeological deposits at Politiko-Troullia reach depths of up to four meters below the modern surface, making this site one of the deepest stratified sites on the island of Cyprus, the announcement says. 
The Ulysses Plate: Tied to the mast
The Ulysses Plate: Tied to the mast

Viktor Sarianidi is a leading archaeologist who has dedicated his career to the study of the archaeological remains in the area of what is known today as the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (Turkmenistan, northern Afghanistan, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan).  Sarianidi's excavations revealed numerous monumental structures at many different sites, including the necropolis of Tillya Tepe, where 20,000 gold pieces where unearthed and the necropolis of Gonur, the largest ever to be found in the East, yielding some 3,000 tombs (3rd and 2nd millennium BC.) The archaeological complex was given a Greek name, Bactria (now northern Afghanistan)– a civilization related to the Cretan-Mycenean culture, some 1,500 years before Alexander the Great, according to Sarianidi, and Margiana, which was the Greek name for the Persian satrapy of Margu, in today's Turkmenistan. Dating to the Bronze Age, the city-state of Margiana is believed to have been Alexander the Great’s capital while in Turkmenistan.  The archaeological complex was given a Greek name, Bactria (now northern Afghanistan)– a civilization related to the Cretan-Mycenean culture, some 1,500 years before Alexander the Great, according to Sarianidi, and Margiana, which was the Greek name for the Persian satrapy of Margu, in today's Turkmenistan. Dating to the Bronze Age, the city-state of Margiana is believed to have been Alexander the Great’s capital while in Turkmenistan. “The  World has four centers of ancient civilization, which are the Aegean, Mesopotamia, India and China. Here, we discovered the fifth,” says the archeologist.  Born in 1929 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Victor Sarianidi is of Pontian Greek 1996, he moved to Greece where he currently lives. He has received several honors in Greece and abroad and is the author of twenty books, among which, "The Necropolis of Gonur."

The Central Archaeological Council has finally given its long-awaited ‘go-ahead’ for a series of mild interventions on the site of the 4th century BC Lyceum of Aristotle, which was discovered in downtown Athens 14 years ago, thus paving the way for opening it to the public as an archaeological site. The Lyceum, named after its 6th century BC sanctuary to Apollo Lyceus (the “wolf-god”, from the word “lykos”, or wolf), had long been a place of philosophical discussion and debate, and had had been the meeting place of the Athenian assembly before the establishment of a permanent meeting area on Pnyx hill in the 5th century BC. But the Lyceum is mostly renowned for the philosophical school founded there by Aristotle upon his return to Athens in 335 BC after being the private tutor of the then young prince Alexander the Macedon, the future Alexander the Great, since 343 BC.

Archaeologists from the University of Haifa, who are conducting excavations in the city of Tel Kabri, found Minoan style frescoes, similar to those discovered in the Aegean islands of Crete and Santorini dating back to the 17th century BC. These are the first such frescoes to be discovered in Israel. According to scientists' which areestimations, the wall paintings in the Canaanite palace in Kabri are a conscious decision by the city's rulers who wanted to adopt the Mediterranean culture rather than the Syrian and Mesopotamian art styles adopted by other cities in Canaan. In an earlier excavation, another fresco similar to those of Santorini was unearthed, but the new discoveries established the fact that the first fresco was not a coincidence but that the ancient city of Tel Kabri not only had developed commercial relations with the Aegean and Minoan world but wanted to come close to and be associated culturally with these civilizations…..



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