Rediscovering The Nile: The Ancient River That Was Once Overlooked By The Egyptian Pyramids

Although we usually imagine the conditions in Ancient Egypt to be much like the Egypt of today, back during the Holocene there was significantly more rain as a result of the African Humid Period (AHP). This translated in the river Nile stretching far beyond its current range, with many more branches. This knowledge led a team of researchers to test the hypothesis that the largest cluster of pyramids in the Nile Valley was sited along one of these now long since vanished branches. Their findings are described in an article published in Communications Earth & Environment, by [Eman Ghoneim] and colleagues.

The Ahramat Branch and pyramids along its trajectory. (Credit: Eman Ghoneim et al., 2024)
The Ahramat Branch and pyramids along its trajectory. (Credit: Eman Ghoneim et al., 2024)

The CliffsNotes version can be found in the accompanying press release by the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Effectively, the researchers postulated that a branch of the Nile existed along these grouping of pyramids, with their accompanying temples originally positioned alongside this branch. The trick was to prove that a river branch once existed in that area many thousands of years ago.

What complicates this is that the main course of the Nile has shifted over the centuries, and anthropogenic activity has obscured much what remained, making life for researchers exceedingly difficult. Ultimately a combination of soil core samples, geophysical evidence, and remote sensing (e.g. satellite imagery) helped to cement the evidence for the existence what they termed the Ahramat Nile Branch, with ‘ahramat’ meaning ‘pyramids’ in Arabic.

Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and high-resolution radar elevation data provided evidence for the Nile once having traveled right past this string of pyramids, also identifying the modern Bahr el-Libeini canal as one of the last remnants of the Ahramat Branch before the river’s course across the floodplain shifted towards the East, probably due to tectonic activity. Further research using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and Electromagnetic Tomography (EMT) along a 1.2 km section of the suspected former riverbed gave clear indications of a well-preserved river channel, with the expected silt and sediments.

Soil cores to a depth of 20 and 13 meters further confirmed this, showing not only the sediment, but also freshwater mussel shells at 6 meter depth. Shallow groundwater was indicated at these core sites, meaning that even today subsurface water still flows through this part of the floodplain.

These findings not only align with the string of pyramids and their causeways that would have provided direct access to the water’s edge, but also provided hints for a further discovery regarding the Bent Pyramid — as it’s commonly known — which is located deep inside the desert today. Although located far from the floodplain by about a kilometer, its approximately 700 meters long causeway terminates at what would have been a now extinct channel: the Dahshur Inlet, which might also have served the Red Pyramid and others, although evidence for this is shakier.

Altogether, these findings further illustrate an Ancient Egypt where the Old Kingdom was followed by a period of severe changes, with increasing drought caused by the end of the AHP, an eastwardly migrating floodplain and decreased flow in the Nile from its tributaries. By the time that European explorers laid eyes on the ancient wonders of the Ancient Egyptian pyramids, the civilization that had birthed them was no more, nor was the green and relatively lush environment that had once surrounded it.

Solar And Wind Could Help Support Ethiopia’s Grand Dam Project

Ethiopia is in the midst of a major nation-building project, constructing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Upon completion, GERD will become the largest hydropower plant in Africa, providing much needed electricity for the country’s growing population.

The project dams the Blue Nile, a river which later flows into neighbouring Sudan, where it merges with the White Nile and then flows on to Egypt. Like all rivers that flow across political boundaries, concerns have been raised about the equitable management of the water resources to the benefit of those upstream and down. Too much water dammed upstream in GERD could have negative effects on Egyptian agriculture reliant on river flows, for example. Efforts are ongoing to find a peaceful solution that suits all parties. Recently, suggestions have been made to supplement the dam’s power output with solar and wind to minimise disruption to the river’s users.

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Code Like An Egyptian

[Marcelo Maximiano’s] son had a school project. He and a team of students built “The Pyramid’s Secret“–an electronic board game using the Arduino Nano. [Marcelo] helped with the electronics, but the result is impressive and a great example of packaging an Arduino project. You can see a video of the game, below.

In addition to the processor, the game uses a WT5001M02 MP3 player (along with an audio amplifier) to produce music and voices. There’s also a rotary encoder, an LCD, a EEPROM (to hold the quiz questions and answers), and an LED driver. There’s also a bunch of LEDs, switches, and a wire maze that requires the player to navigate without bumping into the wire (think 2D Operation).

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