Africa, how Sahara desertification gave rise to Egyptian civilization

This video is called Moroccan Adventures: Sahara Road Trip.

From the BBC:

Ancient humans ‘followed rains’

By Helen Briggs

Science reporter, BBC News

Prehistoric humans roamed the world’s largest desert for some 5,000 years, archaeologists have revealed.

The Eastern Sahara of Egypt, Sudan, Libya and Chad was home to nomadic people who followed rains that turned the desert into grassland.

When the landscape dried up about 7,000 years ago, there was a mass exodus to the Nile and other parts of Africa.

The close link between human settlement and climate has lessons for today, researchers report in Science.

“Even modern day conflicts such as Dafur [sic; Darfur] are caused by environmental degradation as it has been in the past,” Dr Stefan Kropelin of the University of Cologne, Germany, told the BBC News website. ….

Between about 14,000 and 13,000 years ago, the area was very dry.

But a drastic switch in environmental conditions some 10,500 years ago brought rain and monsoon-like conditions.

Nomadic human settlers moved in from the south, taking up residence beside rivers and lakes.

They were hunter-gatherers at first, living off plants and wild game.

Eventually they became more settled, domesticating cattle for the first time, and making intricate pottery.

Neolithic farmers

Humid conditions prevailed until about 6,000 years ago, when the Sahara abruptly dried out.

There was then a gradual exodus of people to the Nile Valley and other parts of the African continent.

The domestication of cattle was invented in the Sahara in the humid phase and was then slowly pushed over the rest of Africa

“The Nile Valley was almost devoid of settlement until about exactly the time that the Egyptian Sahara was so dry people could not live there anymore,” Dr Kropelin told the BBC News website.

“People preferred to live on savannah land. Only when this wasn’t possible they migrated towards southern Sudan and the Nile.

“They brought all their know-how to the rest of the continent – the domestication of cattle was invented in the Sahara in the humid phase and was then slowly pushed over the rest of Africa.

“This Neolithic way of life, which still is a way of life in a sense; preservation of food for the dry season and many other such cultural elements, was introduced to central and southern Africa from the Sahara.”

See on this also here.

Libya-Egypt, desertification and civilisation, can also be seen as part of a world wide process at that time.

Ancient Libya and archaeology: here.

Egyptian prehistory: Badarian culture.

‘African Stonehenge’ in Tunisia: here.

Nineteenth century British colonialism and slavery in Sudan: here.

The Second Expanded Edition of the DVD “Rock Art of the Libyan Desert” is now available: here.

By analysing a prehistoric site in the Libyan desert, a team of researchers has been able to establish that people in Saharan Africa were cultivating and storing wild cereals 10,000 years ago. In addition to revelations about early agricultural practices, there could be a lesson for the future, if global warming leads to a necessity for alternative crops: here.

February 2010. Africa’s Lake Chad has been declared as a wetland of international significance, fulfilling an agreement made a decade ago by the four nations that share it: here.

The rit­u­al hu­man sac­ri­fice that used to take place in many so­ci­eties tended to pro­mote class di­vi­sions, a new study sug­gests. The re­search, pub­lished on­line the jour­nal Na­ture this week, con­cludes that the grisly prac­tice played a role in sus­tain­ing and build­ing so­cial stratifica­t­ion: here.

Monsoon deluges turned ancient Sahara green. Leaf-wax measurements used to reconstruct 25,000 years of rainfall. By Bruce Bower, 4:37pm, January 18, 2017: here.

Researchers at Washington State University and 13 other institutions have found that the arc of prehistory bends towards economic inequality. In the largest study of its kind, the researchers saw disparities in wealth mount with the rise of agriculture, specifically the domestication of plants and large animals, and increased social organization: here.

13 thoughts on “Africa, how Sahara desertification gave rise to Egyptian civilization

  1. Sahara cave may hold clues to dawn of Egypt

    May, 24 2010


    Archaeologists are studying prehistoric rock drawings discovered in a remote cave in 2002, including dancing figures and strange headless beasts, as they seek new clues about the rise of Egyptian civilisation.

    Amateur explorers stumbled across the cave, which includes 5,000 images painted or engraved into stone, in the vast, empty desert near Egypt’s southwest border with Libya and Sudan.

    Rudolph Kuper, a German archaeologist, said the detail depicted in the “Cave of the Beasts” indicate the site is at least 8,000 years old, likely the work of hunter-gatherers whose descendants may have been among the early settlers of the then-swampy and inhospitable Nile Valley.

    The cave is 10 km (6 miles) from the “Cave of the Swimmers” romanticised in the film the “English Patient”, but with far more, and better preserved, images.

    By studying the sandstone cave and other nearby sites, the archaeologists are trying to build a timeline to compare the culture and technologies of the peoples who inhabited the area.

    “It is the most amazing cave … in North Africa and Egypt,” said Karin Kindermann, member of a German-led team that recently made a trip to the site 900 km (560 miles) southwest of Cairo.

    “You take a piece of the puzzle and see where it could fit. This is an important piece,” she said.

    The Eastern Sahara, a region the size of Western Europe that extends from Egypt into Libya, Sudan and Chad, is the world’s largest warm, dry desert. Rainfall in the desert’s centre averages less than 2 millimetres a year.

    About 8500 BC, seasonal rainfall appeared in the region, creating a savanna and attracting hunter-gatherers. By 5300 BC, the rains had stopped and human settlements receded to highland areas. By 3500 BC, the settlements disappeared entirely.


    “After 3-4,000 years of savanna life environment in the Sahara, the desert returned and people were forced to move eastwards to the Nile Valley, contributing to the foundation of Egyptian civilisation, and southwards to the African continent,” said Kuper, an expert at Germany’s Heinrich Barth Institute.

    The mass exodus corresponds with the rise of sedentary life along the Nile that later blossomed into pharaonic civilisation that dominated the region for thousands of years and whose art, architecture and government helped shape Western culture.

    “It was a movement, I think, step-by-step, because the desert didn’t rush in. The rains would withdraw, then return, and so on. But step by step it became more dry, and people moved toward the Nile Valley or toward the south,” Kuper said.

    Kuper and his team are recording the geological, botanic and archaeological evidence around the cave, including stone tools and pottery, and will compare it to other sites in the Eastern Sahara region, adding new pieces to a prehistoric puzzle.

    “It seems that the paintings of the Cave of the Beasts pre-date the introduction of domesticated animals. That means they predate 6000 BC,” said Kuper, who led his first field trip to the cave in April 2009. “That is what we dare to say.”

    The visible art work covers a surface 18 metres wide and 6 metres high. In October, Kuper’s team scanned the cave by laser to capture high-definition, three-dimensional images.

    A test dig a few weeks ago during the team’s third expedition to the sandstone cave uncovered yet more drawings that extend down 80 cms below the sand, Kindermann said.

    “Now we have increasing evidence how rich the prehistoric culture in the Eastern Sahara was,” Kuper said.


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