For almost two decades, archaeologist Steven Sidebotham has been uncovering—literally, layer by layer—the secrets of an ancient, multicultural Egyptian city that reveals a new chapter of its story each time he visits.
This year, for example, the UD history professor's archaeological dig at the Red Sea port city of Berenike found a pet cemetery containing the remains of 17 dogs and cats, ship timbers and other sailing artifacts from the harbor area and a trove of objects from an early Roman trash dump.
"This is an amazing, huge site with excellent preservation" because of the desert climate, Sidebotham said. "We've probably covered about 2 percent of the surface, so there are still several lifetimes' worth of work to be done. We'll never be finished with it."
The project began in 1994 and has survived government upheavals, administrative delays, changing international partnerships and even this year's political turmoil that ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Operating on a shoestring budget that often includes infusions of his own money, Sidebotham and his colleagues have documented a thriving culture that existed in the city for some 800 years, beginning around the 3rd century B.C.