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More Stuff: Paris Egypt exhibit holds defiant message for Islamic State

French President Francois Hollande and archaeological officials have used an exhibit in Paris of two preserved ancient Egyptian cities as a defiant example that the world will not be cowed by Islamic State militants who recently destroyed ancient Syrian heritage sites in Palmyra and killed a local archaeologist.

Paris Egypt exhibit holds defiant message for Islamic State
The face of Osiris statue, Saite period, 26 dynasty, reign of Amasis (570-526 BC), is displayed at the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute), as part of the Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt exhibition in Paris, France, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. As the cultural world decries the destruction of ancient sites in Syria, Paris' Arab World Institute defiantly celebrates the preservation of ancient culture by holding a never-before-seen exhibit of the remains of the ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion [Credit: AP/Michel Euler]

The exhibit at Paris' Arab World Institute, Osiris, Egypt's Sunken Mysteries, presents about 250 ancient objects that were recovered after a French archaeologist discovered the legendary cities Thonis/Heracleion and Canopus underwater over a decade ago.

Much like the mystery of ancient Atlantis, the cities had been lost somewhere between myth, history and legend — that is, until French archaeologist Franck Goddio made his landmark discovery in 2000 uncovering the sites in their watery grave near Alexandria. They had miraculously been preserved by sea sediment for nearly 2,000 years.

Paris Egypt exhibit holds defiant message for Islamic State
A man stands next to statues of Isis, left and Osiris, Saite period, 26 dynasty, reign of Amasis (570-526 BC), displayed at the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute), part of the Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt exhibition in Paris, France, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. As the cultural world decries the destruction of ancient sites in Syria, Paris' Arab World Institute defiantly celebrates the preservation of ancient culture by holding a never-before-seen exhibit of the remains of the ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion [Credit: AP/Michel Euler]

"This exhibit is an incredible achievement," Goddio told The Associated Press. "For years, these cities seemed lost to the world — submerged because of natural calamities like earthquakes and big tides... And now here they are — being shown to the public for the first time. Some objects only came out of the water last year and others have never left Egypt before."

The underwater excavation is ongoing with a team of 50, and Goddio estimates that only as little as 3 percent of the ancient cities have been uncovered so far.

Paris Egypt exhibit holds defiant message for Islamic State
Visitors walk past the 5,4 meters (16,4 feet) high pink granite statue of the God Hapy, Ptolemaic period (305-30 BC), at the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute), part of the Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt exhibition in Paris, France, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. As the cultural world decries the destruction of ancient sites in Syria, Paris' Arab World Institute defiantly celebrates the preservation of ancient culture by holding a never-before-seen exhibit of the remains of the ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion [Credit: AP/Michel Euler]

Hollande, who inaugurated the exhibit this week, alongside the Egyptian minister of antiquities and minister of tourism, said that the message of this exhibit went far beyond Egypt — and said it showed how the will to preserve world heritage is stronger that the wish to annihilate it.

"This exhibit is a message, a fighting message that we have preserved these artifacts, a message of hope at a time when the Middle East is undergoing such drama," he said.

Paris Egypt exhibit holds defiant message for Islamic State
A man looks on an artifact from Thonis-Heracleion, 30th dynasty (380 BC),1st year of reign of Nectanebo I, at the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute), part of the Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt exhibition in Paris, France, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. As Paris-based UNESCO decries the destruction of ancient sites in Syria, Paris' Arab World Institute defiantly celebrates the preservation of ancient culture by holding a never-before-seen exhibit of the remains of the ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion, inaugerated by French President Francois Hollande 
[Credit: AP/Michel Euler]

In the last weeks, Islamic State militants destroyed the two-millennia-old temple of Bel, The Temple of Baalshamin, as well as three ancient tower tombs in the central city of Palmyra — what UNESCO has called an "intolerable crime against civilization."

Hollande also paid his respects to the "sacrifice" of Khaled al-Asaad, the former director of the destroyed Palmyra heritage sites and one of the most important pioneers in Syrian archaeology in the 20th century, who was killed by Islamic State militants.

Paris Egypt exhibit holds defiant message for Islamic State
A man looks at bronze statuettes of Osiris, Ptolemaic period (7th - 1st century BC), displayed at the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute), part of the Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt exhibition in Paris, France, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. As the cultural world decries the destruction of ancient sites in Syria, Paris' Arab World Institute defiantly celebrates the preservation of ancient culture by holding a never-before-seen exhibit of the remains of the ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion [Credit: AP/Michel Euler]

The exhibit was presented in collaboration with the Egyptian government, with officials keen to use this as a way to show that there's another face to the Arab world as the one being projected by militants.

"What is going on in Syria, like the destruction of Palmyra and in Iraq, this kind of thinking is not the real beliefs of the area. This exhibit shows it. This preservation of culture here in Paris shows that it's just a minority who somehow took the lead that are doing this damage," said Mohamed Abdelmaguid, the general director of the Central Department of Underwater Antiquities in Egypt.

Paris Egypt exhibit holds defiant message for Islamic State
A woman looks on the head of a Pharaoh, 26th dynasty at the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute), part of the Osiris, Sunken Mysteries of Egypt exhibition in Paris, France, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. As Paris-based UNESCO decries the destruction of ancient sites in Syria, Paris' Arab World Institute defiantly celebrates the preservation of ancient culture by holding a never-before-seen exhibit of the remains of the ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion, inaugerated by French President Francois Hollande [Credit: AP/Michel Euler]

The many thousands expected to visit the Osiris exhibit in the coming months, as it travels to London's British Museum, might not be drawn for their knowledge of current affairs, and be just be attracted by beauty of the artifacts.

The objects — like a beautiful and imposing 5-meter (16-feet) granite statue of the god Osiris, tools, and ritualistic objects — are in often near-perfect condition, and offer a rare public glimpse into the vast achievements of the ancient world.

The exhibit runs until Jan. 31.

Author: Thomas Adamson | Source: Associated Press [September 10, 2015]