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.
The goal was to understand what happened to cause later structures, from the Greek and Roman eras, to become submerged. “One of the ways you do this is by taking sediment cores and examining core structures,” he said.
“This often happens in science. We were not searching for an ancient city,” said Stanley, who has been working in the Delta region for 20 years.
When his team opened the cores, what they saw were “little ceramic fragments that were indicative of human activity.” But there was no immediate cause for excitement.
Then, more and more rock fragments, ceramic shards from Middle and Upper Egypt, a lot of organic matter plant matter and heavy minerals were found. All the materials were found by radiocarbon dating to be from around 1000 B.C.
The scientists then analyzed concentration of lead isotopes found in the cores and saw that they too matched the dates of around 3,000 years ago.