Franck God­dio

Sunken cities: Egypt’s lost worlds is one of big­gest ex­hi­bi­tions on at the Bri­tish Mu­seum in 2016. Meet the man whose pas­sion for un­der­wa­ter ar­chae­ol­ogy has led to th­ese re­mark­able dis­cov­er­ies

Timeless Travels Magazine - - CONTENTS - For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on Franck’s work see: www.franck­god­ The BP ex­hi­bi­tion Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds is now on at the Bri­tish Mu­seum un­til the 27 Novem­ber 2016 – book now at www.british­mu­­ties. A beau­ti­fully il­lus­trate

Franck God­dio started life as an eco­nomic ad­vi­sor but later gave in to his pas­sion for un­der­wa­ter ar­chae­ol­ogy and in 1985 set up the Euro­pean In­sti­tute for Un­der­wa­ter Ar­chae­ol­ogy (IEASM – In­sti­tut Européen d’archéolo­gie Sous-Marine), a not-for­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion. e is also the founder of the Far Eastern Foun­da­tion for Nau­ti­cal Ar­chae­ol­ogy (FEFNA) in the Philip­pines, a co-founder of the Ox­ford Cen­tre for Mar­itime Ar­chae­ol­ogy (OCMA), and was re­cently ap­pointed Se­nior Vis­it­ing Lec­turer by the Ox­ford Univer­sity School of Ar­chae­ol­ogy. Matilda Hick­son caught up with this ex­tremely busy man just be­fore his new ex­hi­bi­tion, Sunken Cities, opened at the Bri­tish Mu­seum on 19 May 2016.

How did a man who grad­u­ated in math­e­mat­ics and sta­tis­tics, and then went on to be a fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor, be­come an un­der­wa­ter ar­chae­ol­o­gist?

It was a pas­sion I’d had since I was a child. I loved read­ing his­tory and dur­ing the va­ca­tions I was do­ing ar­chae­o­log­i­cal work, as when you were 15 or 16 you were al­lowed to work on an ex­ca­va­tion as part of the team. Then my stud­ies and work led me in an­other di­rec­tion but af­ter ten years of be­ing an eco­nomic ad­vi­sor I de­cided to take a sab­bat­i­cal year and did some things that I’d had in mind for a long time. I did a study around the world of un­der­wa­ter ar­chae­ol­ogy and I was quite sur­prised at what I found out.

Af­ter a year of trav­el­ling and meet­ing peo­ple (ar­chae­ol­o­gists, in­sti­tu­tions, uni­ver­si­ties and the De­part­ment for Ar­chae­ol­ogy in France, for ex­am­ple), I saw that there was re­ally a need for a kind of pri­vate in­sti­tute which could con­duct ar­chae­o­log­i­cal work on a long-term ba­sis with dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

The work could be based on his­tor­i­cal prob­lems of re­search and this new in­sti­tu­tion could do the sur­veys, the his­tor­i­cal works, the restora­tion, the stud­ies – noth­ing like this ex­isted at that time. There were some groups, funded by uni­ver­si­ties or coun­tries, but there was no pri­vate group do­ing un­der­wa­ter ar­chae­o­log­i­cal work. There were a lot of trea­sure hunters, but th­ese were not my con­cern – I wanted to do ar­chae­o­log­i­cal work. So I de­cided there was some­thing to do and so I set it up!

And you wanted to pur­sue un­der­wa­ter ar­chae­ol­ogy rather than land ex­ca­va­tions?

Ab­so­lutely. I love the sea, I am a sailor and in my fam­ily there is a his­tory of this - my grand­fa­ther was a known sailor in the 1930s and in­vented the mod­ern cata­ma­ran. So my fo­cus was the sea, be­cause on land you have many groups work­ing and there was not a need for such an or­gan­i­sa­tion. But this was miss­ing for un­der­wa­ter ar­chae­ol­ogy.

Tell us a lit­tle about your work in the Philip­pines.

My ap­proach was to do long-term his­tor­i­cal re­search and that is what we de­cided to do in 1985, to­gether with the Na­tional Mu­seum of the Philip­pines. The Philip­pines is an ar­chi­pel­ago of 6-7,000 is­lands and their his­tory is one of mar­itime trade and routes. So we de­cided to do his­tor­i­cal re­search on the trade routes and il­lus­trate their his­tory and learn more about the his­tory of the Philip­pines, through find­ing ship­wrecks from dif­fer­ent eras, ex­ca­vat­ing them and pub­lish­ing them.

This is why we are still do­ing this project, af­ter nearly 30 years. In that time we have ex­ca­vated 13 ship­wrecks in Philip­pine wa­ters, Junks from the 11th cen­tury to the 16th cen­turies, Span­ish Galleons from the 16th - 18th cen­turies, (mainly 16th and 17th cen­turies). Then the Philip­pines be­came a world trade route in the 18th cen­tury, through the East In­dia Com­pany; we have wrecks dat­ing from that pe­riod too. We found junks from the 11th - 16th cen­turies and are now fo­cus­ing on an ear­lier pe­riod and sur­vey­ing a 9th and 10th cen­tury Junk.

Some­times the ship­wrecks are quite mod­est, some­times they are very im­pres­sive; some are in shal­low wa­ter and some in very deep wa­ter. One of the ship­wrecks is the San Diego, a galleon which sank dur­ing an his­toric event in an­uary , which fits his­tor­i­cally with the first utch to come to the hilip­pines. So as a ship­wreck it might be the one with the most his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance to the Philip­pines, the most im­por­tant ship for the Philip­pines’ his­tory, as the fate of the Philip­pines may have been de­cided dur­ing the bat­tle in which it was in­volved.

What started your in­ter­est in Egypt and this project?

Dur­ing my world ar­chae­o­log­i­cal study, I was in­vited by Jac­ques Du­mas to Egypt in 1984. He had just dis­cov­ered Napoleon’s flag­ship, the ri­ent, which sank on st Au­gust 1798 dur­ing the bat­tle of the Nile. And be­cause Du­mas was one of the few peo­ple un­der­tak­ing se­ri­ous work in the field of un­der­wa­ter ar­chae­ol­ogy at that time, I wanted to meet him.

So I went to Egypt in July and met umas and did my first ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dive on the Ori­ent. Dur­ing that trip ar­chae­ol­o­gists from the Egyp­tian Supreme Coun­cil of An­tiq­ui­ties men­tioned to me that at the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury the­o­ries had been put for­ward about the miss­ing ancient cities of Tho­nis, Her­a­cleion and Cano­pus. Th­ese cities had been sit­u­ated along the Egyp­tian coast in an­tiq­uity but they have never been dis­cov­ered from ex­ca­va­tions on land, so they might be un­der­wa­ter.

I felt it would be worth con­duct­ing a large project there, as well as a search for the Por­tus Mag­nus of Alexan­dria, which for cen­turies was the big­gest port in the Mediter­ranean Sea. So I pro­posed to the Supreme Coun­cil that we should try to lo­cate the three city sites, map them and then, once the full to­pog­ra­phy of those sites was es­tab­lished, to start ex­ca­vat­ing them, and then to at­tempt to ex­pand the project to in­clude the Por­tus Mag­nus mar­itime trade routes in the area. They agreed to my pro­posal and we started the project in 1992.

Have you had any prob­lems for the ex­ca­va­tions with the re­cent po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Egypt?

We are con­tin­u­ing as nor­mal. We run one or two work ses­sions a year, 45 days on site, depend­ing on the work there is to do, and some­times restor­ing arte­facts or study­ing those from the pre­vi­ous year’s ex­ca­va­tions. Some­times we are so over­whelmed [with the num­ber of ob­jects] that we have to skip one ex­ca­va­tion ses­sion in or­der to catch up with restora­tion and study, but we have had no po­lit­i­cal prob­lems what­so­ever in Alexan­dria or Abukir Bay.

We have to go slowly, to en­sure we pub­lish ev­ery­thing (which we are do­ing with Ox­ford Univer­sity) and we need time

I saw that there was re­ally a need be­cause some­thing was lack­ing. A need for a kind of pri­vate in­sti­tute which could con­duct ar­chae­o­log­i­cal work on a long-term ba­sis with dif­fer­ent coun­tries

to study and write. If you don’t pub­lish reg­u­larly, then in­for­ma­tion is lost and it is e tremely di cult af­ter­wards when you see an arte­fact and you don’t know ex­actly where it is from, as it can be ex­tremely mis­lead­ing when you study it.

How did it feel to dis­cover the sites of the lost cities?

It is ex­cit­ing, but it is also a long, grad­ual process. Of course when we dis­cov­ered the Her­a­cleion site, which was a vast area of ar­chae­o­log­i­cal re­mains, I was sure it must be a city be­cause it was so vast and cov­ered such a wide area that I thought it could not just be one mon­u­ment. And when we started ex­ca­vat­ing and dis­cov­ered the ter­mi­nus of the Tem­ple and then very, very soon af­ter we found the shrine of the tem­ple, in­di­cat­ing that we were in the city of Her­a­cleion, it was an ex­tremely ex­cit­ing time.

Are there many mon­u­men­tal build­ings left?

The city of Her­a­cleion cov­ers an area of about 3.5 square km, and we have so far iden­ti­fied five dif­fer­ent sanc­tu­ar­ies, so would think that we have iden­ti­fied many of the main sanc­tu­ar­ies, although one is still miss­ing. I can guess where it may be but we still have not iden­ti­fied it. ou have to un­der­stand that if you com­pare the city with some­thing like Pom­peii, the site of Her­a­cleion is twice the size of Pom­peii, and it is un­der­wa­ter and cov­ered in sed­i­ment. Pom­peii has been ex­ca­vated since the 18th cen­tury, so we will need sev­eral cen­turies to ex­ca­vate Her­a­cleion fully; we haven’t touched more than a tiny amount, prob­a­bly 5%, so far. So we will be dig­ging there for many cen­turies - I have asked the Supreme Coun­cil for three cen­turies to ex­ca­vate there!

What are the big­gest chal­lenges when work­ing at Abukir Bay?

To be­gin with, we only had his­tor­i­cal text de­scrib­ing the area, so we had to make a crit­i­cal study of this and we didn’t have any marks which would in­di­cate on land where the cities would be. We had no clue what­so­ever where they could be lo­cated ex­cept that we had some mea­sure­ments of dis­tance from one to an­other in some ancient texts and some of the dis­tances were given from Alexan­dria. So we knew that if they were sub­merged un­der­wa­ter, then they would be west of the bay of Abukir not east. This was a vast area to sur­vey, so this was our big­gest chal­lenge.

Then when we started to ex­ca­vate, an­other chal­lenge was that the vis­i­bil­ity is ex­tremely poor, some­times just 30 cm. So when you are ex­ca­vat­ing, it does ham­per the work, but we are get­ting used to that. And as a mat­ter of fact, it seems that the wa­ter is be­com­ing clearer and clearer ev­ery year. In fact, for this year, we had five days when the vis­i­bil­ity was me­tres which was a kind of par­adise! But it is still a chal­lenge. The other chal­lenge of course is the sea con­di­tions. We ex­ca­vate in the morn­ing and very of­ten, by the af­ter­noon, what you ex­ca­vated in the morn­ing is al­ready cov­ered again be­cause of the swell, the waves. So you have to record in situ, per­ma­nently, ev­ery­thing you are do­ing, oth­er­wise you will lose all the work you have done, if you do not record all the data straight away. So the ex­ca­va­tors are per­ma­nently pho­tograph­ing, mea­sur­ing, record­ing as they go along. ou can­not do the ex­ca­vat­ing and then at the end of the day say, ‘OK, let’s do the draw­ing, let’s take the mea­sure­ments’, as it has all gone.

When do you ex­ca­vate each year?

We have two main win­dows to ex­ca­vate, in spring-time, April and May, which is per­fect, and also in Septem­ber/ Oc­to­ber. Dur­ing the win­ter there is too much swell and there are storms which are no good and dur­ing the sum­mer the wa­ter is too hot and the vis­i­bil­ity some­times goes down to zero. And dur­ing Au­gust you also have the north­ern winds com­ing from Greece and it can be quite hot.

Do you work be­tween ex­ca­va­tion sea­sons?

It is a per­ma­nent process. All of the arte­facts that are brought on board stay on board un­til the end of the sea­son, when they are ac­com­pa­nied by the In­spec­tor to the mu­seum in Alexan­dria where we have a ware­house. We have a re­storer on board who is tak­ing care of ob­jects as they ar­rive. And then on land

we have a lab­o­ra­tory in the mar­itime mu­seum, where work is done right through the year.

Do you have a favourite ob­ject that has been found?

That is very di cult to an­swer would say my favourite ob­ject would be the stele of Tho­nis-Her­a­cleion, the black dior­ite stele, 2 me­tres high, which was ab­so­lutely in­tact - since the 18th cen­tury it has been very rare for such a stele to be dis­cov­ered in Egypt. It is beau­ti­ful and fur­ther­more it is per­fectly read­able, with noth­ing miss­ing, and it does solve a two-thou­sand-year-old enigma. It is the kind of ob­ject that is a dream for an ar­chae­ol­o­gist to find.

[The in­tact stele is in­scribed with the de­cree of a s and was com­mis­sioned by Nectane­bos I (378-362 BC) and is al­most iden­ti­cal to the Stele of Naukratis in the Egyp­tian Mu­seum in Cairo. The place where it was to be sit­u­ated is clearly named: Tho­nis-Her­a­cleion].

our new e hi­bi­tion, Sunken Cities, is start­ing in May at the Bri­tish Mu­seum. How much in­put did you have into the ob­jects for the ex­hi­bi­tion?

I chose all the ob­jects my­self. Of the 293 arte­facts that I am con­tribut­ing to the ex­hi­bi­tion, 250 are from our ex­ca­va­tions, and I have asked for 43 ob­jects which are mas­ter­pieces from Egypt and most of them are leav­ing gypt for the first time. The Bri­tish Mu­seum is also con­tribut­ing arte­facts from their col­lec­tion from the city of Naukratis, a city linked with the city of Tho­nis-Her­a­cleion by the Canopic branch of the Nile and which was ex­ca­vated at the end of the 19th and the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­turies.

Did the ex­hi­bi­tion take a long time to or­gan­ise?

es, it was a big process. t was also a big process to plan, to cre­ate the cat­a­logue, to pro­duce the text, it took months and months but I think the re­sults will be out­stand­ing.

Do you think you are do­ing your dream job?

es t is a plea­sure ev­ery day. het­her you are work­ing on site or you are work­ing on the elec­tronic maps, or you are writ­ing, or cor­rect­ing proofs, or pre­par­ing the project plan for the com­ing year, it is al­ways a plea­sure. It is a job which has many as­pects: you have the elec­tronic work, the ex­ca­va­tion, the plea­sure of ex­ca­vat­ing un­der­wa­ter and also the study of the arte­facts, pub­lish­ing them, mak­ing movies, tak­ing un­der­wa­ter pho­to­graphs, sci­en­tific re­search, or­gan­is­ing ex­hi­bi­tions, giv­ing lec­tures, de­liv­er­ing train­ing cour­ses to train new ar­chae­ol­o­gists and lec­tur­ers for the [Ox­ford] Cen­tre of Mar­itime Ar­chae­ol­ogy all th­ese are dif­fer­ent plea­sures but they make life very nice.

What do you think your great­est achieve­ment has been?

In Egypt it was to lo­cate and map the Por­tus Mag­nus, lo­cate and iden­tify the city of Tho­nis (which is on the same site as the city of Her­a­cleion) and the city of Cano­pus, and we are go­ing much deeper and build­ing his­tor­i­cal as­pects which were not known be­fore­hand, so we are adding to his­tory. Be­cause it is some­times good to prove whether what was known to his­tory was true or not, but it is even bet­ter to add things that were not known to his­tory.

And for our work in the Far East [the Philip­pines], this is a long-term project that we started with the Na­tional Mu­seum 30 years ago, so it is a very long process, but we are putting miss­ing pieces to­gether and al­to­gether we have made a very con­sid­er­able achieve­ment there too.

Can you tell us some­thing that we don’t know about you?

Ev­ery morn­ing when I wake up it is a plea­sure! Some­times this is not al­ways the case, even when you have fas­ci­nat­ing work, there may be grey as­pects to your job. But I don’t have any of those. Even when am ne­go­ti­at­ing di cult mat­ters, it is a plea­sure be­cause peo­ple are ask­ing me to do things which are fan­tas­tic.

What is next? Do you have any new projects?

My cur­rent projects will keep me busy for the next hun­dred years! But I also have a project in Cuba which I have been pur­su­ing since 1998.

Franck with the stele of Tho­nis-Her­a­cleion, found at Abukir Bay, Egypt

Rais­ing the stele of Tho­nis-Her­a­cleion

Above: At work in the Philip­pines. On board the sub­mersible, the pi­lot and Franck study the naval ar­chi­tec­ture of the re­mains of the Bri­tish Hon­ourable East In­dia Com­pany ship, Royal Cap­tain. The parts are num­bered, us­ing la­bels made from a spe­cial...

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