Thursday, December 28, 2006

 

Finder of `Egypt's Sunken Treasures' Says He's No Swashbuckler

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Bloomberg
By Helene Fouquet
December 28, 2006


"I'm no Indiana Jones,'' says Franck Goddio, the French economist-turned-archaeologist who curated "Egypt's Sunken Treasures'' at the Grand Palais in Paris.

The slow-talking 59-year-old heads the team that has spent 14 years recovering the artifacts on show. Goddio graduated in statistics and learned archaeology on the job, prompting some skepticism in the small world of archaeologists and Egyptologists.

"My job is to avoid adventure, it's the last thing I want,'' he said in an interview at the Grand Palais, where almost 500 of his underwater discoveries are on show through Jan. 7. "Things must happen as planned. I don't let chance drive my work.''

Before his first diving experience in 1984, when he explored Napoleon Bonaparte's sunken flagship in Egyptian waters, Goddio was an adviser on economics and trade to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, partly under the auspices of the United Nations and France's Foreign Ministry. From 1977 to 1983, he advised the Saudi Fund for Development.

In 1985, he created the European Institute for Underwater Archaeology and then his Franck Goddio Society, which signed the Unesco convention under which all artifacts are turned over to the states to which they belong.

His first major find, in 1991, was the San Diego, a Spanish galleon that sank off Manila 400 years ago. He said his financial background helped him persuade Frankfurt-based Commerzbank AG to sponsor an exhibition of pottery from the vessel.

Goddio says he found the gigantic Hapy and Isis Ptolemaic statues, on display in Paris, under several meters of sand and clay after a meticulous search with the help of nuclear-based technology developed with France's Atomic Energy Center.

Rival Scientist
He is a rival of Jean-Yves Empereur, the French National Research Center scientist who is director of the French Center for Alexandrian Studies. The two men previously worked together in the mid-1990s and now excavate separately, Goddio in the bay of Aboukir and Empereur in the port of Alexandria.

Goddio says discovery and not adventure is in his "family gene.'' The boy, who grew up in Mata Hari's house on the outskirts of Paris, is the grandson of Eric de Bisschop, a French ocean sailor and explorer who built the first modern catamaran.

"I'm patient and it's worth it,'' Goddio said, citing the exquisite Ptolemaic Queen Arsinoe II draped sculpture exhibited in Paris and "which will soon be history.''


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