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'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt' at the Arab World Institute, Paris

'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt', a landmark exhibition of over 250 antiquities, will open after the holiday season, from 8 September until 31 January.

'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt' at the Arab World Institute, Paris
On display will be a selection of objects drawn largely from the last seven years of the underwater excavations in the ancient cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus in Aboukir Bay, directed by Franck Goddio. They will be supplemented by 40 objects from museums in Cairo and Alexandria, some of which have never been seen outside Egypt. Together, these highly significant artefacts illustrate the “legend of Osiris”, one of the great founding myths of ancient Egypt, a myth that was remembered, perpetuated and renewed in the annual celebration of the “Mysteries of Osiris”, one of the great religious ceremonies of ancient Egypt.

'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt' at the Arab World Institute, Paris
The Awakening of Osiris, Egyptian Museum Cairo [Credit: Christoph Gerigk]
“Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt” will be hosted by the Institut du monde arabe and its President Jack Lang. The Institute is a beacon for the diversity and influence of Arab culture and will present the exhibition in a spectacular display space covering nearly 1,100 square metres.

'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt' at the Arab World Institute, Paris
Bronze statuette of a pharaoh [Credit: Christoph Gerigk]
This exhibition will reveal some of the latest underwater discoveries of Franck Goddio and his team, the remains of the ceremony of the “Mysteries of Osiris” found in the cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus.

'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt' at the Arab World Institute, Paris
Ceramic depicting the god Bes raising a dagger [Credit: Christoph Gerigk]
Osiris, son of Earth and Heaven, was killed by his brother Seth, who cut his body into 14 pieces and then threw him into the Nile. Isis, Osiris’ sister-wife, magically restored his body, brought him back to life and conceived their son Horus. Osiris became the Master of the Afterlife and Horus, after defeating Seth, received Egypt as his inheritance.

'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt' at the Arab World Institute, Paris
The goddess Thoueris, Egyptian Museum Cairo [Credit: Christoph Gerigk]
The Decree of Canopus–a stele of 238 BC discovered in 1881 at Kom el-Hisn–tells us that ceremonies celebrating the “Mysteries of Osiris” were performed in the Great Temple of Amun-Gereb in Thonis- Heracleion, just as they were in most of the cities of Egypt. According to the text on the stela, these mysteries culminated in a long water procession, transporting Osiris along canals from the temple of Amun-Gereb in Thonis-Heracleion to his shrine in the city of Canopus.

'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt' at the Arab World Institute, Paris
Granite head of a priest, Ptolemaic period [Credit: Christoph Gerigk]
Under Franck Goddio’s leadership, the Institut Europeen d’Archeologie Sous-Marine (European Institute of Underwater Archaeology) discovered the two cities of Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus in Aboukir Bay, a few [38 kilometers] miles north-east of Alexandria. There they found the remains of temples mentioned in the Decree that have been submerged since the 8th century AD. Excavations at these sites brought to evidence directly related to the “Mysteries of Osiris”: monuments, statues, ritual instruments, cult offerings etc., testimonies of the celebrations that were performed there. During the 21 days of this celebration the founding legend of Egypt was commemorated, perpetuated and revived.

'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt' at the Arab World Institute, Paris
The god of the Nile flood [Credit: Christoph Gerigk]
At the Arab World Institute the celebrations and rituals that were carried out in the utmost secrecy of the temples will be revealed to visitors. They will be guided through the 1,100 square meters to the submerged sites of the two cities and can follow the water processions along the canals.

'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt' at the Arab World Institute, Paris
The ruins of ancient Canopus [Credit: Christoph Gerigk]
Franck Goddio (www.franckgoddio.org) is the founder and president of the European Institute of Underwater Archaeology (www.ieasm.org) and head of the Far East Foundation for Nautical Archaeology (FEFNA). He is also a co-founder of the Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology (OCMA) at the University of Oxford.

'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt' at the Arab World Institute, Paris
The base of a column [Credit: Christoph Gerigk]
In 1996, Franck Goddio, in close collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry for Antiquities, launched an extensive geophysical project to survey and map the submerged area of the ancient Canopic region in Aboukir Bay, 30 kilometres north-east of Alexandria. The results revealed the topography of the area, the bed of the ancient western branch of the Nile, and led to the discovery in 1997 of the city of Thonis-Heracleion with its port and temples, and in 2000 of the city of Canopus. Excavations in both cities continue to this day under Franck Goddio’s direction.

'Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt' at the Arab World Institute, Paris
Naos from the temple of Amon Gereb [Credit: Christoph Gerigk]
Franck Goddio has led survey and underwater excavation in the Portus Magnus of Alexandria since 1992, constructing a detailed map of the eastern port of the city and its surroundings. Current excavations in the Grand Harbour are identifying and researching the infrastructure of the various ports in the harbour as well as the submerged Ptolemaic and Roman temples and buildings.

Author: Caroline Vaisson | Source: Claudine Colin Communications [August 02, 2015]

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