Evidence of City Beneath Alexandria
Jul 26, 2:37 PM (ET)
By KATARINA KRATOVAC
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Alexander the Great founded Alexandria to immortalize his name amid his quest to conquer the world - but his was apparently not the first city on the famed site on Egypt's Mediterranean coast.
A Smithsonian team has uncovered underwater evidence pointing to an urban settlement at the site 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 world's largest, and the 396-foot lighthouse on 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 a fishing village called Rhakotis was located there.
Coastal geoarchaeologist Jean-Daniel Stanley of the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History said his team's work suggested a much larger community at Rhakotis 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.
"This often happens in science. We were not searching for an ancient city," said Stanley, who has been working in the Nile Delta for 20 years.
Their project, part of a 2007 Smithsonian-funded study of the subsiding Nile Delta, also involved Egypt's antiquities department and a French offshore group. Scientists extracted three-inch-wide sticks of core sediment 18 feet long under the seabed to try 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 told The Associated Press, speaking by phone from Washington.
(AP) Traffic passes next to the Mediterranean sea on the corniche in Alexandria, Egypt Tuesday, May 15,...
When his team opened the cores they saw ceramic fragments that reflected 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. Radiocarbon dating showed all the items to be from around 1000 B.C.
The scientists then analyzed the concentration of lead isotopes in the cores and saw that they, too, came from around 3,000 years ago.
"This was proof that there was significant metallurgy and human activity going on back 1,000 years B.C.," Stanley said. "Alexandria did not just grow out from a barren desert, but was built atop an active town.
"We had five well defined components that fit - and we had the story. And the story was that Alexander the Great did not come first to set up Alexandria, there was already something there."
Stanley could not say exactly how big the community was, only that it appeared more developed than a small fishing village.
Mohamed Abdel-Maqsud, an Alexandria expert from Egypt's Council of Antiquities, was cautious, saying the work on uncovering Rhakotis was only just beginning.
"There are signs of a flourishing settlement going back to Pharaonic times, but it's too early to say anything about it," Abdel-Maqsud said. "We are still working."
Stanley hopes a study of Rhakotis may one day prove as inspiring as other recent offshore discoveries - such as finds by marine archaeologists of the 2,500-year-old ruins of Herakleion, Canopus and Menouthis, Pharaonic cities built on the coast near present-day Alexandria.
"There is an awful lot more of history to know," Stanley said, adding that geologists need to drill more intensely on land, around the shores, and in Alexandria itself to shed more light on the ancient world.
"I'm sure they will find artifacts of Rhakotis someday," he said. "And we will know more about the people who lived there."
Rowling answers fans final questions
By LINDSAY TOLER, Associated Press
Just because J.K. Rowling has stopped writing about Harry Potter and his friends and foes doesn't mean she has stopped thinking about them.
She told fans Monday what she thinks happened to many of the book's characters after the final installment.
In a 90-minute live Web chat, she fielded some of the approximately 120,000 questions submitted by devotees. It was her first public comment since "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" — the last book in the series — debuted on July 21.
Rowling said she was elated to share with fans the secrets she'd been harboring since she conjured up the idea for the boy wizard during a train journey across England in 1990.
"It is great to be able to do this at last," she said. "I've looked forward to it for so long!"
"Deathly Hallows" sold over 10 million copies in its first weekend. All seven books in the blockbuster series have sold a combined 335 million copies worldwide.
In the novel — which centers on Harry's journey to kill Lord Voldemort, the most powerful dark wizard of all time — the young wizard learns of three powerful magical objects called the Deathly Hallows that, when combined, will make their owner the Master of Death, meaning he or she accepts mortality without fear.
Rowling said in the online chat the hallows were in part inspired by "The Pardoner's Tale," one of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" about greed and death.
Rowling shared with fans, many of whom said they'd read the final book several times in the last week, where she imagines their favorite characters went after the series' conclusion.
SPOILER ALERT: Those who do not wish to know what happens to the characters after the book ends should stop reading here.
Rowling said the world was a sunnier, happier place after the seventh book and the death of Voldemort.
Harry Potter, who always voiced a desire to become an Auror, or someone who fights dark wizards, was named head of the Auror Department under the new wizarding government headed by his friend and ally, Kingsley Shacklebolt.
His wife, Ginny Weasley, stuck with her athletic career, playing for the Holyhead Harpies, the all-female Quidditch team. Eventually, Ginny left the team to raise their three children — James, Albus and Lily — while writing as the senior Quidditch correspondent for the wizarding newspaper, the Daily Prophet.
Harry's best friend Ron Weasley joined his brother, George, as a partner at their successful joke shop, Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Hermione Granger, Ron's wife and the third person of the series' dark wizard fighting trio, furthered the rights of subjugated creatures, such as house elves, in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures before joining the magical law enforcement squad. The couple had two children — Rose and Hugo.
Luna Lovegood, Harry's airily distracted friend with a love for imaginary animals who joins the fight against Voldemort in the Order of the Phoenix, becomes a famous wizarding naturalist who eventually marries the grandson of Newt Scamander, author of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."
And what Muggle, or non-wizard, song would have been played at the funeral of Albus Dumbledore, the most brilliant and talented wizard the world had ever known?
"Surely 'I Did It My Way' by Frank Sinatra," Rowling told her fans, referring to the song "My Way," written by Paul Anka but popularized by Sinatra, among other singers.
As the chat wrapped up, Rowling thanked readers for their loyalty to the series.
"What can I say? Thank you so much for sticking with me, and with Harry, for so long. You have made this an incredible journey for Harry's author."