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FRANCK GODDIO - Seen here diving at Thonis-Heracleion, once Egypt’s greatest port for much of the first millennium B.C. before Alexander the Great established the Alexandrian metropolis in 331 B.C. It is unclear how and why the city sank into the sea (some time in the first millennium), but the discoveries at Egypt’s primary customs port have been revealing, except for the whereabouts of Queen Cleopatra's tomb - still a mystery.


With a unique survey-based approach that utilises the most sophisticated technical equipment, Franck Goddio and his team, in cooperation with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, were able to locate, map and excavate parts of the city of Thonis-Heracleion, which lies 6.5 kilometres off today’s coastline. The city is located within an overall research area of 11 by 15 kilometres in the western part of Aboukir Bay at a depth of approx. 10 metres. Research started in 1996. It took years to map the entire area. First discoveries could be made in 2000. Franck Goddio has found important information on the ancient landmarks of Thonis-Heracleion, such as the grand temple of Amun and his son Khonsou (Herakles for the Greeks), the harbours that once controlled all trade into Egypt, and the daily life of its inhabitants. He has also solved a historic enigma that has puzzled Egyptologists over the years: the archaeological material has revealed that Heracleion and Thonis were in fact one and the same city with two names; Heracleion being the name of the city for the Greeks and Thonis for the Egyptians.




Marine archaeologist, Franck Goddio, was born in Casablanca, Morocco in 1947. He is a French underwater specialist who, in 2000, discovered the city of Thonis-Heracleion 7 km off the Egyptian shore in Aboukir Bay. He led the excavation of the submerged site of Eastern Canopus and of Antirhodos in the ancient harbour of
Alexandria (Portus Magnus). He has also excavated ships in the waters of the Philippines, significantly the Spanish galleon San Diego.

In the early 1980s he decided to focus on underwater archaeology. In 1987 he founded the Institut Européen d'Archéologie Sous-Marine (IEASM) in Paris.

In his work in detecting and recovering ancient shipwrecks and searching for the remains of sunken cities, Goddio developed a systematic approach to underwater archaeology. He has found or excavated over a dozen sunken ships of historic importance, which had been resting on the ocean bed for hundreds of years. Among them are junks dating from the 11th to the 15th centuries, the Spanish galleon San Diego and San José (1694), Napoleon Bonaparte's flagship Orient and two East Indiamen: Griffin (1761) and Royal Captain, lost in 1773.

Goddio adheres to strict archaeological standards during the exploration and excavation phases, and closely cooperates with national and local authorities, leading archaeological experts and institutions. In 2003, in co-operation with Oxford University, he helped to found the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology. In 2009 he was appointed a senior visiting lecturer in the School of Archaeology at Oxford University. In the same year he received the French Legion of Honour (Légion d'Honneur). In 2018, he became visiting professor in maritime archaeology at Oxford University.

Goddio's research projects have been financed by the Hilti Foundation since 1996. He has written several books and scientific articles, reporting on research projects and excavations. Several TV documentaries have also been produced and aired throughout the world. In addition, various exhibitions have presented the finds and made them accessible to a wide audience. The discovery of a cup inscribed with a reference (in Greek) to "Christ", dating from the 2nd century CE, received international publicity.




- 1986–1988: Griffin (1761) of the British East India Company
- 1987–1990: Spanish galleon San José (1694)
- 1990–1994: Spanish galleon San Diego (1600)
- 1996–2003: sunken royal quarters of Alexandria's eastern harbour, Egypt
- 1997: Royal Captain of the British East India Company
- 1997: junk of the Lena shoal with ceramics of the Ming dynasty
- 1998–1999: Napoleon's lost fleet from the battle against Admiral Nelson in Aboukir Bay in 1798 and his flagship Orient
- 2000–2003: the sunken cities of Thônis–Heracleion and Canopus in Aboukir Bay, Egypt,
- 2002: junk Santa Cruz with over 10,000 pieces of 15th-century porcelain
- 2003: French slave ship Adelaide, lost in 1714 off the coast of Cuba
- 2004–present: researches and excavations of Egypt's coast in the Bay of Aboukir on the sites of Eastern Canopus and Heracleion–Thônis, finalisation of the topography of the sites, continuing excavation in Alexandria's Eastern Harbour






Objects found during excavations directed by Goddio have enriched the national collection of countries where the excavations took place: the National Museum of the Philippines, the Museum of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina National Museum of Alexandria. In accordance with the antiquities authority in the Philippines, objects from Goddio's excavations were donated to the Museo Naval de Madrid, [Guimet Museum] (Musée des arts asiatiques-Guimet, France) and the Maritime Museum in Port Louis.

Goddio has also created travelling exhibitions to bring his discoveries to wide audiences:

Osiris. Egypt's Sunken Mysteries The exhibition presents artifacts drawn largely from the last seven years of underwater excavations at the ancient cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus off the coast of Egypt by the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology (IEASM), directed by Franck Goddio in cooperation with the Egyptian Ministry for Antiquities and supported by the Hilti Foundation. The selection is supplemented by 40 artifacts from museums in Cairo and Alexandria. Displayed in Paris at the institut du monde arabe, Sept 2015 – March 2016; in London at the British Museum in a slightly different version under the title "Sunken cities. Egypt's lost worlds" May – November 2016, in Zurich at the Museum Rietberg, February – July 2017; in Saint Louis (MO, US) at the St Louis Arts Museum March-September 2018 and in Minneapolis (MN, US) at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, November 2018 – April 2019. In Los Angeles/Simi Valley at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, October 2019 - April 2020 and in Richmond at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond (VA), July 2020 - January 2021.

Egypt's Sunken Treasures: A selection of some 500 artifacts unearthed during the excavations in Aboukir Bay and the port of Alexandria. Presented in Berlin (April – September 2006), Paris (December 2006 – March 2007), Bonn (April 2007 – January 2008), Madrid (April – December 2008), Turin (February – May 2009) and Yokohama (June – September 2009).

Cleopatra, The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt A selection of 146 artefacts from Egypt's sunken treasures, displayed in the United States from 2010 to 2013, as part of the larger exhibition "Cleopatra,The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt" at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, at the Cincinnati Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Public Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Treasures of the San Diego: An exhibition of the Spanish galleon, illustrating the work of the team: archivists, engineers, divers, archaeologists, scientists, illustrators, photographers and cameramen: Paris (September 1994 – January 1995), Madrid (May – October 1995), New York (November 1996 – February 1997), Berlin (June – Oct. 1997), Manille (February – April 1998).







- Drain Egypt's Sunken City, National Geographic Channel US, May 2020
- Cleopatra's Palace – In Search Of A Legend, Discovery Channel, 1999
- Napoleon's Fleet, Discovery Channel, 1999
- Treasures Of The Royal Captain, Discovery Channel, 2000
- Sunken Cities, Ancient Earthquakes, Discovery Channel, 2001
- Lost Temple To The Gods, Discovery Channel, 2003
- Franck Goddio – In Search Of Sunken Treasures, Spiegel TV, 2006
- Treasures of The San Diego, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg 2007
- Egypt's Sunken City – A Legend is Revealed, Arte/MDR, 2013
- Swallowed by the Sea: Ancient Egypt's Greatest Lost City, BBC, UK, 2014
- The Wonder List with Bill Weir, CNN October 2017
- Inside Africa, CNN International, June 2018


Sylvie Cauville and Franck Goddio, De la Stèle du Satrape (ligne14-15) au temple de Kom Ombo, in Göttinger Miszellen, Beiträge zur ägyptologischen Diskussion (Helft 253/2017, N° 950), p. 45-54.

Franck Goddio and Aurélia Masson-Berghoff, Sunken cities, Egypt's lost worlds, Thames & Hudson in cooperation with the British Museum, 2016, ISBN 978-0-500-29237-2

Franck Goddio and Damian Robinson (Eds.), Thonis-Heracleion in context, Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, Oxford 2015, ISBN 978-1-9059-05331

Franck Goddio u. David Fabre, "Osiris, Egypt's sunken Myteries", Paris 2015, ISBN 978-2-08137873-5

Zahi Hawass and Franck Goddio, Cleopatra – The Search for the last Queen of Egypt, National Geographic, Washington D.C. 2010, ISBN 978-1-4262-0545-3

Underwater Archaeology in the Canopic Region – The Topography and Excavation of Heracleion–Thonis and East Canopus (1996–2006), Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology, Oxford 2007, ISBN 978-0-9549627-3-9
André Bernand and Franck Goddio, Sunken Egypt – Alexandria, Arcperiplus, London 2002, ISBN 1-902699-51-3

Franck Goddio ed., Egypt's Sunken Treasures, Prestel, Munich 2006, ISBN 978-3-7913-3970-2

Peter Lam, Rosemary Scott, Stacey Pierson, Monique Crick, and Franck Goddio, Lost at Sea, Periplus Publishing, London 2002, ISBN 1-902699-13-0


Archaeological Survey of Alexandria's Eastern Harbour. In Underwater Archaeology and Coastal Management, Unesco Publishing 2000

Gabrielle Iltis, Franck Goddio et al., Royal Captain, Periplus Publishing, London 2000, ISBN 1-902699-19-X

Stacey Pierson, Monique Crick, and Franck Goddio, Sunken Treasures of the Lena Cargo, Periplus Publishing, London 2000, ISBN 1-902699-22-X

Evelyne Jay Guyot de Saint Michel and Franck Goddio, Griffin – On the Route of an Indiaman, Periplus Publishing, London 1999, ISBN 1-902699-03-3

André Bernard, Etienne Bernand, Jean Yoyotte, Franck Goddio et al., Alexandria, the Submerged Royal Quarters, Periplus Publishing, London 1998, ISBN 1-902699-00-9










Institut Européen d'Archéologie Sous-Marine (IEASM)
75, rue de Grenelle
75007 Paris


Media requests and pictures:






Queen Cleopatra's royal barge, last of the Pharoahs      Egyptian royal barge, sails and oars for propulsion      Pharoah Khufu's royal barge, solar boat for the afterlife      Ancient Egyptian royal funeral barge, or solar boat



Cleopatra's royal barge, last of the Pharoah Queens - Egyptian boat building - Khufu's royal barge - solar boat for the afterlife






The ocean has swallowed umpteen civilizations, just the past 10,000 years. We may never discover other lost towns and cities, such as to understand our past, or even explore those we know of, unless the secrets of the ocean are shared.


Ocean awareness, or literacy is not presently high on academic agendas. It is a shocking statistic that we know more about Outer Space, than we do our underwater kingdom. Televised documentary programmes have done a great deal to make life under the waves more popular, highlighting the marine litter problem that is of major concern to marine biologists. With plastic now seen in the remotest corners of the globe and deepest trenches of the ocean.





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