|Ancient City by the Sea, Leukaspis or Antiphrae, Rises Amid Egypt's Resorts |
Egyptian antiquities experts walk down the stairs of a royal tomb entrance at the ancient city of Leukaspis a well known Greco-Roman port overlooking the Mediterranean Sea at the costal resort of Marina, Egypt Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010. 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. AP Photo/Nasser Nasser.
By: Paul Schemm, Associated Press Writer
MARINA, EGYPT (AP).- 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, 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 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.
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 (2 meters) 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 (480 kilometers) 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.
"It was built by dynamite detonation so whatever was there I think is gone," said Agnieszka Dobrowlska, an architect who helped excavate the ancient city with the Polish team in the 1990s.
However, Egyptian government interest in the site rose in the last few years, part of a renewed focus on developing the country's Classical past. In 2005, Dobrowlska returned as part of a USAID project to turn ancient Marina into an open air museum for tourists.
It couldn't have come at a better time for ancient Marina, which had long attracted covetous glances from real estate developers.
"I am quite happy it still exists, because when I was involved there were big plans to incorporate this site in a big golf course being constructed by one of these tycoons. Apparently the antiquities authorities didn't allow it, so that's quite good," recalls Dobrowlska.
Redoing the site is part of a plan to bring more year-around tourism to what is now largely a summer destination for just Egyptians perhaps with a mind to attracting European tourists currently flocking to beaches in nearby Tunisia during the winter.
Much still needs to be done to achieve the government's target to open the site by mid-September, as ancient fragments of pottery still litter the ground and bones lie open in their tombs.
But if 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 (10 kilometers) 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 (8 meters) below ground.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.
September 7, 2010
Sotheby's to Sell Group of Exceptional Paintings from the Collection of Supermodel Jerry Hall
Sotheby's Modern & Contemporary Southeast Paintings Sale Announced
Ancient City by the Sea, Leukaspis or Antiphrae, Rises Amid Egypt's Resorts
Ernesto Neto "Intimacy" at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
Strong Selection of Prints by Modern and Contemporary Masters at Sotheby's
Construction Work to Start on The Photographers' Gallery
Bowes Museum Reunites Two Important Works for New Display
Hundreds of Looted Artifacts from Museums Returned to Iraq
Christie's to Present a Three-Week Exhibition of Contemporary Art from China
MCA Names James Goggin Director of Design, Print, and Digital Media
The Amazons: Mysterious Warrior Maidens Explored in New Exhibition
Anonymous Studio Installs "Alexandria" at Southern Polytechnic State University
Powerhouse Museum to Develop International Exhibition About The Wiggles
War Photographer Paolo Pellegrin Takes a Shot at Fashion
ArtTactic's Chinese Contemporary Art Market Confidence Survey Shows Continued Strong Recovery
Iguatemi Sao Paulo Hosts SP-Arte/Foto
Bellevue Arts Museum Announces BAM Biennial Award Winner
Art Now: Clunie Reid and James Richards at Tate Britain
Art Forum Berlin and ABC Art Berlin Contemporary to Take Place Concurrently
Eleven Egyptian Officials to Be Tried in Van Gogh Theft
Astrid Klein "Broken Heart, Works from 1980 - 1995" at Sprüth Magers
Tina Berning and Michelangelo Di Battista: Face/Project at Camera Work Gallery
Irish Pavilion Presents Portfolio of Irish Architecture Practice
Christie's Expects Poussin's Painting to Fetch Up to $31 Million
Exhibition and Karl Ströher Prize for French Artist Cyprien Gaillard
Raphael Tapestries Go on Show in Britain at the Victoria & Albert Museum
Exhibition "Woman as Muse, 1900-1950" Opens at the Herakleidon Museum
Yad Vashem Gets Access to Polish Archives
World Trade Center Steel Columns to Be Installed at 9/11 Museum
Fundacion Proa Presents Exhibition of Artistic Production in the 1960s
Most Popular Last Seven Days
1.- Greece holds breath as skeleton found in Alexander the Great-era tomb at Amphipolis
2.- Spain mourns the death of art collector Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, Duchess of Alba
3.- Meet the ancestors: Exhibition at Bordeaux gallery reveals faces of prehistoric humans
4.- Getty Foundation and partners launch free of charge online art collection catalogues
5.- Historic photos of dead Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara resurface in small Spanish town
6.- Exhibition showcases the first two 'Poesie' created by Titian following their restoration
7.- O'Keeffe painting sells for more than three times the previous world auction record for any female artist
8.- Crystal Bridges announces the departure of museum President Don Bacigalupi
9.- artnet Auctions offers a later example of Yayoi Kusama's important Infinity-Nets series
10.- 'Degenerate art' should go back to museums: German advisor Jutta Limbach
Ancient City by the Sea, Leukaspis or Antiphrae, Rises Amid Egypt's Resorts
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc|