The geophysical and archaeological surveys conducted in the Bay of Aboukir help to give an idea of the topography of the now-sunken city of Thonis-Heracleion. The site, whose objects reflects continued occupation from the eighth to the second century BC, to the south contained the temenos of an important temple in Pharaonic style, and to the north and the east large harbour basins. This topography is perfectly compatible with that established by Professor Jean Yoyotte from textual study: the name itself, Thonis (T-Hone), carries a particular historical geography: the city was installed on one of the “inferior bassins (hone) of the arms of the Nile, at the place where the diverticula which detach laterally form at the end of the branch of the lower Delta and flow into coastal lagoons, while only the major arm flows into the open sea” (J. Yoyotte, Egypt, East Africa & Orient, 24, 2001). Surrounded by the city, the temple and its annexes stood on a central promontory. To the west there was an inland lake. In the East, the quays and a large outer harbour led to the Nile by a narrow passage. A large dune protected the whole. Sheltered from the prevailing northwest winds and northeast storms, Thonis-Heracleion, customs office and emporion, offered an ideal port location.
In general, the methodical and systematic approach the IEASM applies to the coastal West Nile Delta brings new knowledge essential to the understanding of coastal regions. Given the preliminary status of work conducted on the coast of the south-eastern Mediterranean, particularly Egypt, it is undoubtedly premature to talk of a complete understanding of the types of port infrastructure, operation of waterways, docks, piers, wharves, dams etc. and their relationship with the economic and sacred structures of Thonis-Heracleion. But the findings and documentation now made available have established a fundamental axis of research into the ports and anchorages near the sea in ancient Egypt.
Archaeological results from the work undertaken by IEASM from 1996 in the bay of Aboukir which resulted in a new topography of the Canopic sites of the region were published by F. Goddio as Topography and Excavation of Heracleion-Thonis and East Canopus (1996 -2006): Underwater Archaeology in the Canopic Region in Egypt, OCMA Monograph 1, Oxford, 2007; ‘Geophysical Survey in the Submerged Canopic Region’, in A. Wilson, D. Robinson (eds.), Alexandria and the North-Western Nile Delta. Joint Conference Proceedings of Alexandria: City and Harbour (Oxford 2004) and Trade, Topography and Material Culture of Egypt’s North - Western Delta (Berlin 2006), Oxford, 2010 p. 3-13. The many shipwrecks found in Thonis-Heracleion illuminate in a particular way the topography of the site: D. Fabre, ‘The shipwrecks of Heracleion-Thonis (Egypt). Preliminary Study and Research Perspectives’, in D. Robinson, A. Wilson (ed.), Maritime Archaeology and Ancient Trade in the Mediterranean, The Proceedings of the third OCMA Symposium held in Madrid in 2008, Oxford, 2011, p. 13-32; D. Fabre, ‘The shipwrecks of Thonis-Heracléion in context’, in Heracleion in Context: The maritime economy of the Egyptian Late Period, OCMA Symposium, Oxford, 15th-17th March 2013, Oxford Centre for Maritime Archaeology Monograph, Oxford, forthcoming.