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How Napoleon unearthed Ancient Civilizations during the Egyptian campaign

How Napoleon unearthed Ancient Civilizations during the Egyptian campaign 1
Photo: Jean-Leon Gerome. Egyptian campaign of Napoleon Baron. 1863

Napoleon Bonaparte authored his memoirs, narrating the Egyptian campaign in the third person. His meticulous attention to detail is remarkable. He recalled every troop movement, the count of soldiers in battle, distances, settlements, and the names of all the Egyptian beys over the years. Such extraordinary precision and attention to minutiae have contributed to the grandeur of French culture.

The fact remains that during his Egyptian campaign, Napoleon documented numerous pieces of evidence of pre-flood civilizations. For instance, the Suez Canal, which is 160 kilometers long and connects the Mediterranean to the Red Seas, offering a direct route to India, was constructed in 1869.

However, in 1798, Napoleon and his troops unearthed an ancient, albeit desiccated, shipping canal. This was not the “Pharaonic Canal” that linked the Nile to the Red Sea, but rather the ancient canal that connected the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The meticulousness of Napoleon and his team of scientists is beyond question. Here is what Bonaparte wrote:

How Napoleon unearthed Ancient Civilizations during the Egyptian campaign 2
Construction of the Suez Canal 1859.

“The remains of the canal of the two seas are clearly visible, its banks are located at a distance of 25 toises from each other (approximately 49 meters). The horseman standing in the middle of the canal is not visible from either side.”

It’s hard to imagine a civilization without modern heavy machinery capable of excavating a 160-kilometer canal that’s 50 meters wide and 20 meters deep. Such an endeavor suggests a highly developed seafaring culture with advanced maritime capabilities.

During his campaign in Egypt, Napoleon encountered numerous ruins, stonework, and deserted cities, with Hermopolis being one of the most notable. These ancient cities, frequently mentioned in his memoirs, may now be lost to looting or the sands of time. Napoleon observed that during Alexander the Great’s era, the desert was more hospitable, scattered with cities and villages. The existence of a map depicting the Sahara with rivers and cities supports the theory that a cataclysmic event led to the depopulation of these once-thriving areas.

Map of the "blooming" Sahara with rivers and cities
A map depicting the Sahara as a flourishing region, complete with rivers and urban areas.

For instance, it bears resemblance to Napoleon’s discovery of the location where the Jews crossed the Red Sea during their escape from Egypt. While he doesn’t state this outright, the clues and implications are rather evident. Napoleon himself experienced a similar plight in the midst of the sea, akin to that of the Egyptian pursuers. His journey began when a path emerged through the parted waters and a sandbank appeared, but as he progressed, the waters converged, leaving him marooned. This location is known as Madia, a minor bay near Suez.

Napoleon managed to traverse it by day, but at night, his horses were submerged up to their chests in water, and his troops narrowly escaped to shallows, surrounded by darkness and water. In a dire moment, Napoleon exclaimed, “Are we to perish like Pharaoh?” referring to the engulfed Egyptian army. Fortuitously, thanks to an astute soldier, they found a route shallow enough for the horses to survive, escaping before the rising waters could engulf them completely.

Close to Suez lies the Moiseev Springs, the sole source of potable water in the Suez area. Napoleon noted that these springs are situated three leagues from Suez, approximately 16 kilometers away. His team of scientists discovered ancient aqueducts and ruins at this site.

Remains of the tomb of Osiris
Remains of the tomb of Osiris.

For instance, Napoleon found ancient walls encircling Elephanta Island, which belonged to a civilization distinct from the one he encountered in Egypt in 1798. On the adjacent island of Philae, the tomb of the god Osiris was a site of continued pilgrimages during Napoleon’s time. These islands and their ruins still stand today.

Moreover, Napoleon did not recognize Israel or Judea; he referred to the entire region as Syria, with the holy land being Palestine. He observed that Jerusalem’s population was wholly Christian, implying an absence of Jewish residents. In Nazareth, he recorded meeting three Christian elders, all over ninety years old, with one aged one hundred and one, who dined with Napoleon and recited the Bible eloquently. This suggests that people lived to advanced ages under Muslim rule, without modern medicine or scientific advancements, contrary to the modern assertion that life expectancy was around thirty years. In this regard, Napoleon’s accounts are deemed more reliable than those of contemporary skeptics.

An interesting observation is that Napoleon’s 12-pound cannons, which were considered advanced for the time, easily breached the modern masonry of Jaffa’s city walls. However, they were ineffective against the ancient tower in Acre due to its old and sturdy construction. This suggests that older structures may be stronger and more durable. Generally, Napoleon’s army was extremely effective against local forces, with battles often resulting in a disproportionate number of casualties for the Egyptians or Ottomans compared to the French, a testament to their superior tactics, artillery, discipline, and square formations.

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Moreover, it is intriguing that Napoleon referred to the capital of the Ottoman Empire as “Porta” instead of Constantinople and addressed the Turkish Sultan as an Emperor. This could indicate that the influence of the Byzantine Empire was more significant than commonly acknowledged. Upon visiting the port of Caesarea, just north of present-day Tel Aviv, Napoleon remarked on the abundance of marble, granite, and porphyry columns, evidence of a once-great civilization.

Karnak Temple in Luxor, Upper Egypt
Karnak Temple in Luxor, Upper Egypt.

It turns out that Napoleon was not just a formidable commander, but also one of the pioneering alternative historians and researchers who unearthed remnants of ancient civilizations during his Egyptian campaign. Accompanied by 160 scientists, artists, and architects, his army meticulously recorded and sketched their findings, significantly altering the conventional historical view of the world.

The discoveries were so astounding that they posed a challenge for those who tried to credit them solely to the ancient Egyptians, perceived as uneducated, and this narrative remains tenuous. A visit to modern-day Alexandria, with its urban sprawl and refuse, prompts the question: If the Egyptians once had such an advanced culture, complete with canals, ancient temples, tombs, and grand structures, what became of it?


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