Abstract

A small but significant find made during a geological survey provides evidence of the oldest human presence yet discovered along the northernmost margin of Egypt's Nile delta. A manuport, a rock fragment carried by human agency to the site, was discovered in a sediment core section north of Burullus lagoon near the Mediterranean coast. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon analysis of plant-rich matter in the mud surrounding the object provides a date calibrated to 3350–3020 B.C., the late Predynastic period. This long thin manuport, formed of dolomite, had not been deposited by the Nile or the sea but was collected and transported from an outcrop exposure positioned at least 160 km south of the core site. The fragile manuport, used for an undetermined function, lay buried at a depth of 7.4 m in dark olive gray mud deposited in a shallow brackish lagoon setting close to a marsh. This fortuitous find documents an early human presence in the middle Holocene wetlands along the delta's paleocoast, a sector where traditional excavation and augering are normally incapable of reaching occupation levels or zones of activity at considerable subsurface depths. Core drilling provides a means to help archaeologists locate undetected and potentially important sites.

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