|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 8, 2010
National Art Museum of China Opens Major Exhibition of Masterpieces of Italian Futurism
Dallas Museum of Art Discovers George Romney Painting in the Collections
Major Eadweard Muybridge Retrospective Opens at Tate Britain
Royal Academy to Examine British Sculpture of the 20th Century
Study Reveals that Elite of Yaxchilan Produced Exclusive Handcrafts
Group Exhibition Featuring Works on Paper at Timothy Taylor Gallery
Tony Blair Book Party at Tate Modern Postponed Due to Demonstrators
Exhibition of New Paintings by Allen Jones at Marlborough Fine Art
Post-War American Art: The Novak/O'Doherty Collection at IMMA
Jan Six Portrait by Rembrandt on Display at the Rijksmuseum
American Artist Suzan Frecon Presents New Paintings at David Zwirner
Exceptional Works of South Asian Art to Be Auctioned at Sotheby's
Grand Rapids Awaits ArtPrize Crowds, Back for a Second Year
Sotheby's Hong Kong to Hold 20th Century Chinese Art Autumn Sale in October
The Royal Photographic Society Awards Centenary Medal to Albert Watson
Strong Selection of Prints by Modern and Contemporary Masters at Sotheby's
Sotheby's Modern & Contemporary Southeast Paintings Sale Announced
Ernesto Neto "Intimacy" at the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art
Ancient City by the Sea, Leukaspis or Antiphrae, Rises Amid Egypt's Resorts
Construction Work to Start on The Photographers' Gallery
Bowes Museum Reunites Two Important Works for New Display
Major Collection of Work from Iconic Modern Jewellery Designer Andrew Grima to Be Offered by Bonhams
30 Pieces of Photographic Works by Chinese Artists Maleonn and Jiang Pengyi at Blindspot Gallery
The Cleveland Museum of Art Announces Newest Acquisitions
The Art Loss Register Welcomes MaryKate Cleary and Julia Rickmeyer
Galerie Priska Pasquer Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Rinko Kawauchi Exhibition
Hundreds of Looted Artifacts from Museums Returned to Iraq
Christie's to Present a Three-Week Exhibition of Contemporary Art from China
Historic Sites Go Beyond Glorifying Great Men
Posters Created in the German Democratic Republic at Grey Art Gallery
World Trade Center Steel Column Installed at 9/11 Museum
Indianapolis Museum of Art to Present US Pavilion at Venice Biennale
MCA Names James Goggin Director of Design, Print, and Digital Media
Most Popular Last Seven Days
1.- Jumex Museum cancels Hermann Nitsch exhibit under pressure from petitioners
2.- Former electrician and his wife on trial in France over 271 'stolen' Pablo Picasso works
3.- Free visits at Louvre as French archaeologists protest; 100 protesters block the ticketing area
4.- Picasso case witnesses doubt he gifted works to retired electrician Pierre Le Guennec
5.- Emotional Helen Mirren brings Nazi-looted art film 'Woman in Gold' to Berlin fest
6.- Rare Ferrari found on French farm and once owned by Alain Delon fetches 16.2 million
7.- Leonardo da Vinci painting, about to be sold for $135 million, seized at Swiss bank
8.- Paris' Decorative Arts Museum unveils an exceptional collection of over 3,000 buttons
9.- Exhibition of over 180 works at Pinacothèque de Paris explores The Vienna Secession
10.- 'Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott' reveals rare photographs, on view for first time at MFA Boston
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|