For the first time, the Nile River will be the subject of an archeological excavation. An Egyptian archeological team affiliated with the Supreme Council of Antiquities will track down the locations of the river’s ancient sunken treasures.
Alaa Mahrous, director of the underwater antiquities department in Alexandria, told Daily News Egypt that the team of archaeologists headed by Dr Zahi Hawass, director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, has selected the Nile to be the subject of their search. The river has not been excavated to date.
“The survey will cover the area between the quarries in Aswan and Abydos. Over the centuries this was a significant area — either for the ancient Egyptians or the many rulers of the country who followed,” Mahrous explained.
“The granite quarries were located in Aswan. The statues and obelisks used to be cut and shaped in the mountains before they were shipped to Luxor and Abydos.”
The team hopes to find any pieces that might have went down while being loaded on unloaded from ships. “It is also possible to discover shipwrecks as many huge boats sank along with their load which consisted of statues, pottery and merchandise. We also have information regarding two small obelisks that settled in the river bed 10 km off Luxor as they were being shipped to Cairo by Maspero.”
Mahrous pointed out that, fortunately, the geography of the Nile hasn’t changed, especially in Upper Egypt. In addition, the river’s alluvial mud is a protective agent. Unlike the seawater that erodes the wood, the mud protects all kinds of artifacts.
“But I would like to stress again that this will be only a survey to locate the site of the antiquities. Recovering them will follow at a different stage,” noted Mahrous, who described how state-of-the-art technology will be used in the survey.
“This includes a sizeable rubber boat that has been provided with special facilities for accommodating and protecting the survey tools,” said Mahrous.
“Our survey tools will consist of the ‘side scan sonar’ that reveals the artifacts buried under the river bed, the ‘Bommer’ that penetrates the mud and sand found in the depths of the river as well as the GPS that is used in pointing out geographical locations, a tool that will prove effective in spotting the artifacts’ exact locations,” the official added.
“We will be able to read the results immediately, because the sonar is also connected to a computer on board, which will show images of what stands on the river bed or what is buried under the mud.”
“The GPS will guide us through several geographical locations,” Mahrous added. “In the case of an object being discovered, our team of divers will swim down to examine it, ensuring it isn’t a significant monument that would be missed.
“But a small dive as this isn’t as easy as some think. To dive in the Nile you also have to deal with strong winds, the high density of the river water and intensity of alluvial mud that, within seconds, can turn the surroundings into dark recesses.”
Based on the information relating to this survey, the ensuing stages will be decided.
“But we aim to carry out a survey of all the locations of sunken antiquities countrywide, a plan that will take us years of hard work.”
The Nile bed in Luxor and Aswan, pictured above, is expected to contain well-preserved antiquities
Stokis HPAI Jogja, Monday, May 4, 2009