For centuries, ancient writers had praised the Egyptian cities of Canopus and Heracleion as visions of splendor. Such descriptions had long sparked the interest of historians and archaeologists in the modern world, but the cities themselves were nowhere to be found. Finally, in 1992, researchers from the Institut Européen d’Archéologie Sous Marine—European Institute of Underwater Archaeology (IEASM)—set out to search the Alexandrian waters. Literary texts, ancient inscriptions, papyrological documentation, and archaeological information provided by Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) all indicated great promise in this region. Still, scientists had only a faint idea of the monuments and artifacts hidden in these shallow waters. Their discoveries now reveal that Canopus and Heracleion formed a rich network with nearby Alexandria, a network that allowed the entire region to flourish. Today the sunken cities contain only remnants of this network, but artifact by artifact, excavations have brought us a few steps closer in the never ending search for Cleopatra VII, the last Ptolemaic queen of Egypt.


From National Geographic Magazine

  • <p>Photo: Workers at dawn</p>

    Egyptian Afterlife

    New evidence shows that, human sacrifice helped populate the royal city of the dead.

  • Photo: Desert ruins

    The Black Pharaohs

    An ignored chapter of history tells of a time when kings from deep in Africa conquered ancient Egypt.

  • Photo: Egyptian tomb at night

    The King Herself

    What motivated Hatshepsut to rule ancient Egypt as a man while her stepson stood in the shadows? Her mummy, and her true story, come to light.


  • Photo: Underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio

    Franck Goddio

    Franck Goddio explains his drive to keep searching for elements of Cleopatra's life.

  • Photo: Zahi Hawass

    Zahi Hawass

    Zahi is looking for that missing piece of Egypt’s story—the tomb of Cleopatra.

Cleopatra in the News