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Posts Tagged ‘Old Kingdom’

Topic: Ancient Drought

Ancient pollen and charcoal preserved in deeply buried sediments in Egypt’s Nile Delta document the region’s ancient droughts and fires, including a huge drought 4,200 years ago associated with the demise of Egypt’s Old Kingdom, the era known as the pyramid-building time.

“Humans have a long history of having to deal with climate change,” said Christopher Bernhardt, a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey. “Along with other research, this study geologically reveals that the evolution of societies is sometimes tied to climate variability at all scales — whether decadal or millennial.”

Bernhardt conducted this research as part of his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, along with Benjamin Horton, an associate professor in Penn’s Department of Earth and Environmental Science. Jean-Daniel Stanley at the Smithsonian Institution also participated in the study, published in July’s edition of Geology.

“Even the mighty builders of the ancient pyramids more than 4,000 years ago fell victim when they were unable to respond to a changing climate,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “This study illustrates that water availability was the climate-change Achilles Heel then for Egypt, as it may well be now, for a planet topping seven billion thirsty people.”

The researchers used pollen and charcoal preserved in a Nile Delta sediment core dating from 7,000 years ago to the present to help resolve the physical mechanisms underlying critical events in ancient Egyptian history.

They wanted to see if changes in pollen assemblages would reflect ancient Egyptian and Middle East droughts recorded in archaeological and historical records. The researchers also examined the presence and amount of charcoal because fire frequency often increases during times of drought, and fires are recorded as charcoal in the geological record. The scientists suspected that the proportion of wetland pollen would decline during times of drought and the amount of charcoal would increase.

And their suspicions were right.

Large decreases in the proportion of wetland pollen and increases in microscopic charcoal occurred in the core during four different times between 3,000 and 6,000 years ago. One of those events was the abrupt and global mega-drought of around 4,200 years ago, a drought that had serious societal repercussions, including famines, and which probably played a role in the end of Egypt’s Old Kingdom and affected other Mediterranean cultures as well.

“Our pollen record appears very sensitive to the decrease in precipitation that occurred in the mega-drought of 4,200 years ago,” Bernhardt said. “The vegetation response lasted much longer compared with other geologic proxy records of this drought, possibly indicating a sustained effect on delta and Nile basin vegetation.”

Similarly, pollen and charcoal evidence recorded two other large droughts: one that occurred some 5,000 to 5,500 years ago and another that occurred around 3,000 years ago.

These events are also recorded in human history — the first one started some 5,000 years ago when the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt occurred and the Uruk Kingdom in modern Iraq collapsed. The second event, some 3,000 years ago, took place in the eastern Mediterranean and is associated with the fall of the Ugarit Kingdom and famines in the Babylonian and Syrian Kingdoms.

“The study geologically demonstrates that when deciphering past climates, pollen and other micro-organisms, such as charcoal, can augment or verify written or archaeological records — or they can serve as the record itself if other information doesn’t exist or is not continuous,” said Horton.

This study, Nile delta response to Holocene climate variability, was published in the July edition of Geology, and was authored by Christopher Bernhardt, USGS; Benjamin Horton, Penn; and Jean-Daniel Stanley, Smithsonian Institution. Support for the work came from the University of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Original Article:

sciencedaily.com

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Topic: Ancient Methods-Modern uses

 

Excavation the ash around the silos, view to the west. Photo by Yasser Mahmoud

 

 

Overview of the silo building, excavation and recording. View to the west. Photo by Yasser Mahmoud

 

 

One of the most interesting things that I noticed in my excavation, in what seems to be a storage building that dates to the Old Kingdom in Giza, is a concentration of ash. This ash surrounded circular mud brick silos that had been constructed beside each other forming an L. The ash itself was very dark, dense and soft. Thinking about the silos and the ash, I remembered my mother and her storage methods for the butter. She put the butter in a big aluminum jar and surrounded the jar with a layer of soft ash to prevent the ants from reaching the butter. My colleague Hussein Rekaby, an excavation supervisor, told me that the people in his village near Aswan still use the same idea in their construction of storage silos.  They start by spreading ash horizontally, then they put clay to make the base of the silo before building the silo itself. Hanan Mahmoud, hearing Hussein’s story, told me that she exposed a layer of ash deposit under a sequence of round mud brick silos when she excavated House E to the East of Queen Khentkawes tomb at Giza. We follow some of our ancestors’ daily life behaviors and customs.

Original Article:

aeraweb.org

 

Posted on Feb 1, 2012

Posted by Rabee Eissa, SCA archaeologist

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