Our modern western civilization traces its roots to the Mediterranean region, and determining exactly when and where civilizations took hold remains an ongoing quest.
For example, the armies of Alexander the Great swept across the region, leading to the establishment of the city of Alexandria on the shores of the Mediterranean in BC 332. But what came before Alexander?
Was there a settlement that preceded Alexandria, and if so, what can we learn about the people who lived and died there?
These are some of the questions addressed by Jean-Daniel Stanley of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and his co-workers in a paper in the August GSA Today.
By applying a multidisciplinary approach, involving archeology, sedimentology and geochemistry, to the study of sediment cores collected from Alexandria's Eastern Harbor, Stanley and his colleagues have demonstrated that a settlement occupied the region for at least seven centuries prior to the arrival of Alexander.
Ceramic shards, high lead levels, and the use of building stones imported from other regions all attest to a once flourishing urban center as far back as BC 1000. These discoveries indicate that much is still to be learned about the early development of western civilization, and an effective means of achieving this is by integrating geologic and archaeological methodologies.
Reference: "Alexandria, Egypt, before Alexander the Great: A multidisciplinary approach yields rich discoveries" Jean-Daniel Stanley et al., Geoarchaeology Program, Rm. E-206, Paleobiology, Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History,GSA Today, August 2007.
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