Areas in Context


1.1 Geographical Information

1.1.1 The Faiyum

Faiyum Neolithic Hammerstones2The Faiyum depression, known in Dynastic times as Ta-She (lake land) covers an area of around 1700km2.  It is close to the Nile Valley: “A divide, from 8 to 14km wide and with an elevation of from 30 to 90m above sea level separates the Fayum from the Nile Valley” (Said et al 1970). Only 60 km from Cairo and the division of the Nile into the number of channels making up the Delta, it was at one time connected during the inundation season to the Nile itself, and shares borders with the Western Desert.  It was at a junction between Upper and Lower Egypt and the Western Desert: “the Faiyum Neolithic should thus be viewed as a culture at the intersection of three routes:  one from the eastern Sahara, one from the Near East and one from the Nile Valley itself” (Midant Reynes 1992/2000 p.106). 

There are seven major depressions in the Western Desert: Faiyum, Qattara, Bahariya, Kharga, Dakhla, Farafra, and Siwa, as well as a number of minor ones, including the nearby Wadi Rayyan. In many ways the Faiyum has much in common, geomorphologically, with the depressions of the Western Desert, but “its natural connection with the Nile and the fact that its soil is made up of alluvial silts both mean that it is usually included within the general area of the Nile Valley” (Midant Reynes 1992/2000, p.18-19).  This natural connection to the Nile is the major differentiator between the Faiyum and other depressions. The Faiyum is below the average level of the desert and is well below sea level. Lake Qarun, in the lowest part of the depression, is today 45m below sea level.

Bar Yussef emerges from the Nile and follows the course of an ancient Nile branch.  It runs more or less parallel with the Nile until it branches off to enter the Faiyum, today via the Hawara Canal.  In prehistoric times it broke naturally into the depression during the annual inundation, to flood it and lay down fertile silts.  In the Faiyum, the fluctuating Nile and the level of Nile floods directly impacted the levels of Lake Qarun and this in turn impacted the settlements of the Faiyum.

The Faiyum Depression is carved out of Eocene and Oligocene strata and is encircled by a northern escarpment.  A small scarp to the west and south divides it from Wadi Rayyan and a wide ridge to the east separates it from the Nile valley. It is overlooked by two mountains, the fossiliferous sandstone Gebel Qatrani to the north and Gebel Guhannam to the west.  There is one wadi, Masraf el-Wadi (“Outlet of the Mountain”) near Nazla.

The Faiyum contains some of the best palaeontological sites in the world and is particularly noted for its five varieties of Eocene whales (over 390 at Wadi Hitan alone), as well as its Oligocene sites including “some of the oldest primate fossils in the world [which]. . . provide one of the most complete records of early mammalian evolution in the world” (AAPG 2000, p.9).  There are also several large petrified forests “preserved in giant point-bar channel deposits of the Palaeo-Nile river” (AAPG 2000, p.9).  Other fossils found in the Faiyum area include shark’s teeth, invertebrates, fish skeletons, mangrove roots, plants and termite and insect burrows.

Although it is probably best known for its Middle Kingdom, Ptolemaic and Roman sites, it is particularly important for its contribution to knowledge on the Epipalaeolithic in Egypt and for providing some of the earliest evidence of farming in Egypt.

Several writers (e.g. Butzer 1976) have speculated about the potential effects of the environment for the fostering of the malaria mosquito – the combination of humidity, seasonal swamp and the nearby freshwater lake are ideal conditions for malaria, but there has been no evidence of it.

The Faiyum can be considered in many ways different from anywhere else.  Culturally, it sees the development of the Qarunian and the Faiyum Neolithic, both of which share features with other sites and were influenced by other areas, but are not duplicated anywhere.  The cultural identity of the Faiyum vanishes in the Predynastic period, but is represented in the Cairo area at Merimde and el Omari. There was an apparent hiatus after Merimde, following which a much greater homogeneity appears in Lower Egypt during the Maadi-Buto phase, and then again as Upper Egyptian features begin to appear and then dominate. 

  • Socially, the Faiyum displayed neither the religious nor the advanced organizational skills suggested by the Badarian of Upper Egypt and the Bir Kiseiba-Nabta society of the southwest Western Desert.  A degree of social organisation is implied in the Cairo area and Western Delta settlements and late cemeteries that apparently evolved out of the Faiyum Neolithic.  Religious belief is visible in preparation of the dead, but it was by no means as important a component as in Upper Egypt and arrives much later on the scene.
  • Economically, the Faiyum retained a semi-nomadic hunting, gathering and fishing lifestyle before the early Neolithic elsewhere in Egypt, in which a semi-permanent lifestyle was supplemented with hunting and fishing - a way of life that persisted for a surprisingly long time, and for much longer than anywhere else in Egypt.
  • The geology and geomorphology of the Faiyum render it unique.  Although it combined many elements visible in the oases is one of several desert depressions, the presence of a giant lake, its connection to the Nile, and a unique history of aggredation and deflation, gave it a unique status in the Pleistocene and Holocene periods.  For details of the Faiyum Geology, see Part 3.
  • Environmentally and ecologically, the Faiyum is distinct from other areas of Egypt, in spite of similarities.  It shares with the Western Desert sites that it is a depression, and with the Nile floodplain that it was naturally flooded on an annual basis, but its geomorphology and geology differ from both, and its environmental conditions are particularly distinctive.  Faiyum life was dependent upon the Nile for its survival from the earliest times - Lake Qarun was always dependent upon the Nile inundation, and provided the fish that were the mainstay of the Qarunian, and the deposited silts that were essential for the earliest farming of the Faiyum A.  It differs from Merimda and other Upper Egyptian sites in retaining a preference for supplementing the diet with fishing – possibly, from the ease of capture versus the difficulty of immigration.

It is never satisfactory to study areas in isolation.  Even islands, although providing interestingly discrete areas for study, are subject to outside influences, both natural and cultural.  The Faiyum is a clearly defined area, but it is very firmly connected to the main Nile valley just south of the junction between the Nile and the Delta. It is important to identify characteristics which distinguish it in significant ways from other environments, to suggest relationships with other cultural areas, and to identify features which give it continuity and integrity, despite the many recorded changes, in the context of the Lower Egyptian world in which it clearly sits.
 

1.1.2 Cairo Area

Modern Cairo is located at the point where the main Nile branches and flows to the sea.  A number of predynastic sites surround modern Cairo including Merimde to the north west, El Omari and Maadi to the south, and Heliopolis to the north east.  Modern Cairo has probably destroyed many more sites.  At the end of Naqada III Memphis was founded here, on fairly inferior land, as the capital of a unified Egypt.  It was presumably located here for its strategic value, in terms of communication and economics.

Sites like El Omari, Maadi and Heliopolis, all important Predynastic sites, have clustered in this area, and it is not much of a stretch of the imagination to believe that many more lie beneath modern day Cairo and its suburbs, destroyed forever.  Only a look at Christiana Kohler’s current work on the Early Dynastic cemetery on the edges of the ever-encroaching and already destructive suburbs of Helwan is enough to confirm this very high probability.

Sampsell (2003, p.95) says that Memphis, to the south of Cairo and established in the First Dynasty, was “on the Nile when it was founded”.   However Memphis is now several kilometres to the west of the Nile, indicating that the Nile in this part of Egypt had changed considerably, with a move to the east. Cairo was only established in far more recent historic times (969AD) but according to Sampsell, unlike its movement in the Memphis area “the river has undergone a steady westward shift in the past two thousand years” (2003, p.95).
 

1.1.3 The Western Delta

The Western Delta is an entirely artificial designation and has been adopted merely for the purpose of giving a more complete picture of the Merimdan, Omarian and Maadi-Buto complexes than by restricting comment to sites in the Cairo area.  The Maadi-Buto complex in particular, extended to a large number of sits Lower Egypt, of which those in the western Delta are geographically closest.

The Nile Delta spreads in an inverted triangle north from Memphis and is formed of a series of Nile branches, alluvial flats which form into flood plains, levees, sand islands, and streams. 

At around 800,000 years ago “a mighty river, the Prenile, began carrying huge loads of gravel and sand northward.  These sediments were laid down on the surface of the expanding delta region to immense depths.  The area of the delta grew to about three times its current size and rose higher than the modern Delta” (Sampsell 2003, p.118).  In time, the modern Nile was established, its flow substantially reduced and therefore carrying much less silt. 

Glaciation in northern Europe impacted the Mediterranean climate and reduced sea levels globally. In the Delta the impact of the northern glacial period is visible in the depth of the channels eroded by the Nile’s deltaic branches, and the sand ridges between them.  According to Butzer, between 7000 and 4000BC “the Mediterranean Sea rose from -20m to near present level, the northern third of the Delta was reduced to a vast tract of swamp and lagoon.  Rapid alleviation by the Nile, at an average rate of some 20cm per century, evidently compensated for this marine incursion by building a 10- to 40-m thick sheet of mud out over a delta that shortly after 4000BC had reached approximately its present dimensions” (Butzer 1976, p.23).

The Central and southern Delta consist of “extensive areas of surface sands or thin mud accumulations (0-10m)” (Butzer 1976, p.25).  There were three major Nile branches.  The 7-8 branches described by Greek writers only evolved in the 2nd and 3rd millennia BC.  Natural vegetation in predynastic times included marsh fauna including reeds, bulrushes, papyrus, and lotus, as well as tamarisk, acacia and dry-ground shrubs (Saad and Sami 1967).  The natural levees and sand and mud banks which rose above the level of the seasonal flood plains, sometimes up to c.10m high, were suitable for settlement and were clear of the water during flood times, while the lands were suited to both cultivation and grazing of domesticated animals.

The northern Delta was a much wetter landscape, featuring lagoons, swamps, extensive marshes and large areas of water-logged land. 

The 10m of alluvial accumulation mentioned by Butzer (1976, p.25) was deposited over a period of some 6000 years and inhibits the location of predynastic sites.  However, Butzer suggests that even in Pharaonic times the Delta was under-populated when compared with Upper Egypt and that settlements were highly dispersed.  He suggests on the basis of various evidence that “specialised forms of agriculture were far more prominent than in the Nile Valley, while pastoralism retained much of its prehistoric significance, at least through the Ptolemaic era” (1976, p.95).  He speculates that this may be due to “excessive water and malaria” (1976, p.96).
 

1.2  Chronologies and Dating

Dating in Egypt has long been a problem due to the lack of chronometric dates.  Relative dating sequences have given archaeologists a way of organizing and comparing excavated material. While these relative systems have been useful, they are no replacement for calendrical dates. 

The position is exacerbated in Lower Egypt where the material is nowhere near as prolific as in Upper Egypt.  Helpful relative typologies have not until recently (Seeher 1992, for example) been possible for later Neolithic and predynastic sites into the early Dynastic sequences for which calendrical dates do exist.  As Hassan puts it:  “reliance on relative dating has led to many different interpretations of the sequence of events . . . controversy over the basic chronological framework of early farming communities along the Nile Valley undermines any attempt to construct credible models of the cultural changes that led to the rise of the Egyptian civilization” (Hassan 1985, p. 97).

In the Faiyum, dating of geological contexts by both contents and radiocarbon dates has helped to develop sequences, but these can not always be tied into sequences elsewhere in Egypt.

The main source of chronometric dates in Lower Egypt is the radiocarbon dating of organic items located in secure stratigraphic sequences.  Although Thermoluminesence and other scientific dating techniques have been used elsewhere in Egypt, and Wenke (1991) has suggested that dendrochronology may have applications in the future, they have not been applied in Lower Egypt. 

Hassan (1985) had provided an invaluable analysis of existing radiocarbon dates at that time, and has developed a “general, tentative chronometric scheme” using the radiocarbon dates available. A table showing how they relate to Lower Egypt is included in Appendix E, derived from that article and from a much larger list of additional sources than those included in Version 1.  References to this dating scheme will be made throughout this paper.

The following is a much simplified comparative chronology of key sites in the Neolithic of Upper and Lower Egypt, designed to demonstrate relationships rather than absolute dates.

 

Period

 

Industry

Site

Location

Duration

Palaeolithic

Lower

Kom Tima

Faiyum Depression

c.700,500-250,000BP

Middle

Kom Tima, Gebel er-Rus, Qasr Basil

Faiyum Depression

c.250,000-70,000BP

Upper

Ezbet George, Dimshkin

Faiyum Depression

c.50,000-24,000BP

Epipalaeolithic

 

Early Epipalaeolithic

S4, MOE3, MOE2b, MOE2c

Faiyum Depression

No dates available, but thought to be earlier than Qarunian

Qarunian

FS2, E29h1, E29G1, E29G2, ASI/79, QSII/79, E29H2, E29G3(A),

Bahr el Malek 4

Faiyum Depression

8835+/-1890BP (Gd-2021) – 5990+/-60BP (Gd-695)

Helwan

Helwan sites

Helwan

No dates available

(Unknown)

Referred to in Hayes (1964, 1965)

Abu Suwair

Wadi Tumilat

No dates available

Shibeem al Qanatir

Delta.  Nr. The Ismailia canal

Heliopolis

Delta

Abassiya

Delta

Neolithic

Cairo                                                   Faiyum

Faiyum

Neolithic

 

Kom W, Kom K (E29H2), Kom M, FS1, XI/81, E29H1 (A, B and C), E29G3(B), E29G1,

V/79, I/79, VIE/81, IX/79, XI/79, V/79

Faiyum

 

6480+/-1170BP (Gd-2021) – 5990+/-60BP (Gd-695)

Moerian

IX/81, X/81, XI/81, VII/80, VI/80, XII/80, VID/80, VII/80, VI/80, XII/80, VID/80

Faiyum

5480+/-1100BP (Gd-977) – 5070+/-120BP (Gd-915)

Merimden

Merimde Beni-Salame

Western Delta

6130+/-100BP (U-6) - 4560+/-140BP (U-32)

Omarian

El Omari (date from Omari A)

Western Delta

5355+/-230BP

(C-463)

Late Neolithic/

Chalcolithic

Maadi-Buto

Maadi, Wadi Digla, Heliopolis, Tell Fara’in Tura, Es-Saff

Maadi, Western Delta

c.5950-5150BP (4000-3200BC)

Predynastic

 

Naqada II

Tell Fara’in (Buto), Harageh, Gerzeh

Cairo, Western Delta

c.5450-5150BP

(c.3500-3200BC)

Protodynastic

Naqada III

Abusir el-Maleq

Faiyum Area

c. 5150-4950BP

(3200-3000BC)

Tarkhan

Tell Fara’in (Buto)

Northern Delta

Harageh

Faiyum Area

 

1.3 Cultural Context

This section offers a brief description of what Egypt was like during the periods under discussion, in order to put the Lower Egyptian prehistoric periods into a broader cultural and economic context.
 

1.3.1 The Levant

It is widely believed that the Levant was the source for sheep/goat and cereal domestication within Egypt, although it is clear that the trend towards domestication was established before new domesticates appeared from the East, in the Sahara (see below).   In Kurdistan goat was domesticated possibly from around 10,500BC onwards, but by 8000BC is firmly attested to.  The first animals, sheep and goat, were domesticated at around 9000BC: “Animal domestication developed simultaneously at several locations right around the time warming resumed, in about 9000BC, just as farming was taking hold over a far larger area than it had during the Younger Dryas” (Fagan 2004, p.102).  Increasingly successful adaptation the land corresponded to new spiritual beliefs and iconography and from around 10,000BC early agricultural communities were burying their dead under the floors of houses.

Some S.E. Asian components are found in the Faiyum Neolithic, and more appear in Merimde and Maadi-Buto sites (Hassan 1988, p.145).  Maadi-Buto sites appear to have been contemporary with the Ghassulian and Beerheba Chalcolithic phases and seems to have ended at the beginning of EBAIa. 

The Ghassulian economy is agricultural with small villages and mixed farming with little or no supplementation of the diet by hunting.  The cultivation of olives assumes increasing importance. New areas were colonized at higher elevations that were suitable for growing olive trees.  Low elevations continued to be exploited, as demonstrated by the Jordan Valley occupations. Spouted vessels are one of the characteristic artefacts, which occur elsewhere including Egypt, and may have been used to store and move oil.

The Beersheba Chalcolithic is represented by a number of small settlements were founded on the edges of the Beersheba Valley. Unlike those of the Ghassulian, the dwellings at Beersheba were carved out underground. The earliest such subterranean dwellings were large single rooms dug into the sides of hills, with inclined entrances. Later dwellings were dug as a series of smaller, oval-shaped rooms. These were entered via vertical shafts.  They are similar to those found at Maadi.  Beersheba is particularly notable for its advanced copper industry. The site of Tell Abu Matar produced an impressive catalogue of copper items made from relatively unalloyed copper, originating from ores of high mineral content. Items were smelted in specially constructed clay furnaces and further refined in small pottery crucibles.

Between c.6500 and 6000BP, there are no cemeteries in the southern Levant which suggests that there was no requirement to establish ancestral legitimisation, and that the dead were disposed of in different ways (Smith 1996, p.30).  This is consistent with Lower Egyptian traditions, although there is no suggestion here that these were the same groups.  The closest equivalent to Merimde in terms of age is Qantif, near Gaza, which dates to the 5th Millennium BC.

The Beersheba was followed by the Early Bronze I (EBAI). Kenyon and others have suggested that this change occurred abruptly and was due to immigrants moving in from neighboring regions at the close of the Chalcolithic. They cite the change in settlement patterns, in addition to new forms of pottery and burial practices in the Early Bronze I.  Yadin takes this one step further and suggests that Egypt conquered the south Levant at the end of the Chalcolithic and then occupied it in the Early Bronze I to maintain their control over the region.  However, these opinions ignore the clear continuity between the two periods and many modern scholars now attribute the changes to internal processes.  Increased connections are clear towards the end of between the EBAI and the Maadi-Buto/Naqada II period with Egyptian influence showing clearly in a number of Palestinian locations, and the possible establishment of trading of Mesopotamian items via Northern Syrian and Palestine (Mark 1997). 

 

1.3.2 The Sahara and Western Desert

Some early dates exist for the Sahara and elsewhere in Africa for sites which have produced ceramics, which imply at least a semi-permanent exploitation of resources, although it is not claimed that they represent communities where cultivation was practised  They include Tagalar in Niger (9370-933BP), Ti-n-Torha (90080BP and c.8700BP, Adrar Bous (9030BP) and Nabta Playa (c.8100BP) (Smith 1989, p.29).

The drier period in the central Sahara from c.8000-6500BP would have reduced the potential for exploitation as the plants and animals in the diet concentrated on moister areas.  Smith (1989 p.75) believes that “it is possible that this was the impetus for closer man/animal relationships that finally led to the controls and manipulation of genetic material fundamental to the domestication process”.  He suggests that improved conditions after c.6500BP would have allowed this pastoral lifestyle to extend to other areas of the Sahara, including Egypt. 

Pastoralism is attested to very early in Egypt and the Sahara, perhaps from as early as the 10th millennium bp at Bir Kiseiba and Nabta Playa, and during the early part of the Holocene, up until c.10,000BP such groups in the Western Desert and the Sahara were apparently nomadic:  “Groups moved around a rather wide circuit which included all of the Western Desert oases . . . the extreme unpredictability of the rains determined such movements, as people moved in search of game and pasture for the first flocks (Barich 1986, p.128).”   The arid conditions of the time would not have supported wild cattle, and Wendorf et al (1984) suggest that in order for them to survive and be exploited by human groups occupying these areas they would have had to be herded and cared for. Current indications from biologists and archaeologists looking at the origin of Africa’s cattle by studying genomes to observe evolution within the species are that African cattle are the ancestors of current Middle Eastern types, and it appears that the customer of herding cattle was indigenous to Africa at this time, and not influenced by sheep and goat herding in the Near East.  Bradley et al (1996 p.5131-5) suggest that African and Asian strains separated out around 20,000 years ago, and that a date of 9000BC for domestication of cattle in Egypt is entirely feasible.

Hunting activities are attested to as well.  At Nabta c.6700BC and Bir Kiseiba c,6700BC, all the animals found were of types that could have survived in semi-desert conditions – including hare, gazelle, tortoise and jackal.

At around 10,000BP there is evidence at Wadi Kubbaniya for fishing and organised collection, processing and storage of grain.  Tubers were used for turning into flour.  This is a very different picture from that provided by northern Egypt where this type of intensive plant processing was not a significant part of the economy.  In the 9th Millennium bp Ti-n-Torha in Libya and Nabta and Farafra in the Western Desert, also provide evidence for the importance of the exploitation of cereals which were native to those areas, and appear to have supported a semi-permanent lifestyle (Barich 1986).

Combined with plant management, the tradition for pastoralism appears to have developed independently in both Egypt and the Sahara.  Barich believes that this may have evolved as a successful way of combating climatic deterioration and that as these groups moved into the Nile they influenced local fishing communities in areas like el-Kab and the Faiyum (Barich 1986, p.127-132). 

 

1.3.4 Nubia

At around 12,500BC the “Wild Nile” period of the Nile’s evolution began, changing the Nile from a braided series of streams, to a single river.  This had the effect of concentrating the land available for exploitation to a considerably reduced area, removing vast areas of marshland.  Dating to this period there is a cemetery at Jebel Sahaba dating to 13-11,000BC.  There were 49 burials, of which 24 showed clear signs of violent deaths (embedded arrowheads and cut marks) which Mithen speculates may have been the result of competition for decreasing resources (Mithen 2003, p. 451).

Between 6000 and 5000BP three sites in the Khartoum area provide evidence for groups whose economy was based on herding and fishing:  Geili, Kadero 1 and Shaheinab.  After around 4800 until c.4000BP in the Kadada the economy became dominantly pastoral (Barich 1986, p.131). 

During the Neolithic, the so-called A-Group occupied Nubia.  Contacts are indicated between Upper Egypt and the A-Group, with jars and wavy-handled pottery, copper tools , palettes, beads and stone vessels from Upper Egypt found extensively in Nubian A-Group contexts.
 

1.3.5 Sinai

There are no Neolithic sites with affinities to the Sinai known to date, but in the northern Sinai there are two sites which show affinities with the Harifian and Pre Pottery Neolithic B and the Late Bronze Age. 
 

1.3.6 Upper Egypt

Throughout this document comparisons with Upper Egypt are made, in order to place the Lower Egyptian sites in an appropriate context.  The Upper Egyptian sequence is as follows:

  • The Badarian is the earliest agricultural society of Upper Egypt.  Recent studies (Wilkinson 2003) suggest that the Badarian lifestyle was based on seasonal occupation of Nile-side sites and Eastern Desert areas, where agricultural and fishing lifestyles alternated with hunting.  The first signs of social complexity appear with burials (mostly human but with some cattle burials as well) and a funerary assemblage that shows symbolic conceptualisation and artistic expression.  Most of the material assemblage was portable.
  • The Tarifian is a culture that doesn’t quite fit with either the Badarian or the Naqadan.  It has a very different assemblage from either.
  • The Naqadan followed the Badarian and clearly represents a degree of continuity from it.  However, it probably also represents a mixing of the Nile occupants with more remote hunter-gatherer and semi-permanent groups who formerly occupied the desert areas and were forced to gather around the Nile due to increasing aridity (Hassan 1985).  The Naqadan chronology was initially divided into three by Petrie, who referred to the three phases as Amratian, Gerzean and Seminaien.  However, Kaiser revised this scheme and although still described in three main units, Naqada I, II and III, it is subdivided into a larger number of sub-phases.


1.4 Environmental and Ecological Context

A number of studies have highlighted the importance of understanding the environmental conditions of a given place, and its impact on the local ecology and its knock-on effect on human exploitation of resources.  Butzer (1976), Mithen (2003), Smith (1989) and Fagan (2004) are among those who have offered insights into the impacts of environmental conditions on Egypt as a whole.   As Butzer puts it “It has become difficult to ignore the possibility that major segments of ancient Egyptian history may be unintelligible without recourse to an ecological perspective” (1976, p.56).  This section scarcely touches on a subject which will be expanded upon in future versions of this paper, but provides a short insight into some of the changes that have been impacting Egypt for the last 22,000 years.  Please note:  A lot of the available information is rather contradictory and the dates often don’t agree, so this is a very speculative chronology based on three main schemes proposed.

Years BP

 

Environmental Conditions

Reference

c.22,200 – 15,000BP

(c.20,000 - 12,000BC)

Egypt was as dry as today.  The floodplain was twice as wide and prone to more violent flooding.  The White Nile was blocked from the main Nile and did not contribute water from Lake Victoria.  A short wet season meant that the Nile was not one river but had a braded appearance consisting of several streams that meandered throughout the floodplain and showed much less discrepancy in seasonal water levels

Mithen 2003, p.451

Butzer 1976, p.13

c.15,000-12,750BP

(c.12,700 – 10,800 BC)

Late glacial interstadial in Europe – caused an improvement in temperature and an increase in rainfall.  The White Nile broke through, delivering water from Lake Victoria, causing the Nile to eat through its flood plain and deposit silt at higher levels.  At around 12,500BC it went through its “White Nile” period when the river changed from a series of streams to one fast flowing river.  This changed the local ecology of Egypt, removing great areas of marsh land and reducing land that could be exploited for hunting, gathering and fishing activities.

Mithen 2003 p.451

c.12,750-10,000BP

Dry conditions.  Eastern and Western Deserts uninhabitable and the Nile possibly running too fast to support fishing and marsh environments.  

11000-11500BP (Butzer and Hansen 1968) a series of exceptionally high floods after which there were a reduced number of settlements (Hassan 1972)

Mithen 2003 p.451

Butzer 1976

Butzer & Hansen 1968

10,000 – 8,500BP

Wet period

Smith 1989,

Barich 1986

8,500 – 7000BP (Egypt)

8000 – 6500BP (Central Sahara)

Dry interlude, which will have forced groups to focus activities on reduced areas for hunting and collecting activities

Smith 1989

7000 – 5000BP

(c.5050-3000BC)

Moist period, with increased rainfall, when grasslands opened up allowing a much wider exploitation of land, with periods of both high and low floods

Smith 1989

Butzer 1976

c.5500BP-c.4950BP

c.4000-3000BC

Occasionally heavy rains accompanied by heavy erosion

Butzer 1976

c.3000BC- Present

As today

Butzer 1976