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Crucial shift in River Nile’s evolution that could’ve shaped the fortunes of ancient Egyptian civilisation

Crucial shift in River Nile’s evolution that could’ve shaped the fortunes of ancient Egyptian civilisation

Scientists believe these geography changes could've contributed to the success of the archaic economy.

Researchers believe an expansion of the River Nile may have contributed to ancient Egypt’s flourishing agricultural economy.

Thought to be approximately 30 million years old and with a total length of about 6,650km, the Nile is considered the longest river in the world.

Consisting of three main streams - the Blue Nile, the Atbara and the White Nile - the waterway is commonly known as The Lifeline of Egypt because of its crucial role in developing life and culture.

During ancient Egypt’s Old and New Kingdoms, the Nile was routinely used to shape civilians’ fortunes through trade, transportation and farming.

Archaeologists even believe the River Nile was utilised to cart limestone and granite across the country so construction workers could erect the pyramids.

However, new research into the watercourse has concluded that a geography shift 4,000 years ago allowed Ancient Egypt to experience a period of ‘unparalleled prosperity’.

Scientists from the University of Southampton believe that the floodplain in the Nile Valley around Luxor greatly expanded, contributing directly to the access of the age’s agricultural economy.

It’s said that this expansion improved soil fertility and that this change in behavior may have ‘influenced settlement patterns’ and the location of various historical structures.

Speaking about his team’s findings, Dr Benjamin Pennington, a co-author on the paper from the University of Southampton said: “The expansion of the floodplain will have greatly enlarged the area of arable land in the Nile Valley near Luxor (ancient Thebes) and improved the fertility of the soil by regularly depositing fertile silts.”

zhouyousifang / Getty
zhouyousifang / Getty

“While no specific causal links can be inferred between this shift and any contemporaneous social developments, the changes in the landscape are nonetheless an important factor that need to be considered when discussing the trajectory of Ancient Egyptian culture.”

It’s believed that as the floodplain expanded, the valley floor was built up with intense levels of sediment deposits.

The act, which took place between the Old and New Kingdom periods, could also have impacted Nile’s behavior.

It’s said that during this time, less water was flowing through the river allowing it to establish more stable channels.

This eventually allowed the river to become the single-channel Nile we are familiar with today.

Speaking about how the team achieved these results, Dominic Barker, another co-author from the University of Southampton, said: “We drilled 81 boreholes, many by hand, across the whole Nile Valley near Luxor – a genuine first for Egypt.

Kitti Boonnitrod/ Getty
Kitti Boonnitrod/ Getty

“Using geological information contained within the cores, and dating the sediments using a technique called Optically Stimulated Luminescence we were able to piece together the evolution of the riverine landscape.”

It’s said that these new results - funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and Uppsala University - will allow archaeologists and Egyptologists to reinterpret ancient sites in the region.

They may also re-consider locations of known settlements in the Nile Valley.

The new paper, titled Shift away from Nile incision at Luxor ~4,000 years ago impacted ancient Egyptian landscapes, has been published in the popular journal, Nature.

Featured Image Credit: Matt Champlin / Adam Jones / Getty