City may be hidden beneath Alexandria

AlexandriaAlexander the Great founded Alexandria to immortalize his name on his way to conquer the world, but his may not have been the first city on the famed site on Egypt's Mediterranean coast.

A Smithsonian team has now uncovered first underwater evidence pointing to an urban settlement dating back seven centuries before Alexander showed up in 331 B.C.

The city he founded, Alexandria, has long been a source of intrigue and wonder, renowned for its library, once the largest in the world, and the 396-foot (119 meter) lighthouse at the island of Pharos, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

But little was known about the site in pre-Alexander times, other than that a fishing village by the name of Rhakotis was located there.

Coastal geoarchaeologist Jean-Daniel Stanley of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History said the work by him and his colleagues suggested there had been a much larger community than had previously been believed.

The discoveries, reported in the August issue of GSA Today, the journal of the Geological Society of America, came by accident when his team drilled underwater in Alexandria's harbor, Stanley said.

Their project was part of a 2007 Smithsonian-funded study of the subsiding Nile Delta and involved extracting three-inch-wide sticks of core sediment some 18 feet long (5.5 meters), from up to 20 feet (6.5 meters) under the seabed. Egypt's antiquities department and a French offshore group were involved in the project.

Source: USA Today
Image: Flickr/Stuck in Customs
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