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Sea level and initiation of Predynastic culture in the Nile delta


PREDYNASTIC occupation of the Nile valley and delta, dating back to at least 5000 BC, has been attributed by most archaeologists to environmental factors, primarily regional climate change and fluctuating Nile flood stages1–5. Here we propose instead that initiation of farming settlements in the Nile delta was closely related to eustatic sea level. We present geological analyses of late Quaternary subsurface sections throughout the delta which reveal that the deceleration in sea-level rise that occurred at about 6500–5500 BC was a prime factor in the accumulation of Nile silt, and the creation of the widespread and fertile delta plain. As rising sea level reduced the gradient of the river course, a system of meandering Nile distributaries evolved, with increased overbank deposition burying the former (early Holocene), partially vegetated sandy plain. The broadening, seasonally flooded, fecund plain, with its increasing plant cover, provided a setting that was conducive to evolving agricultural activity and was therefore instrumental in the development of Predynastic communities in the Nile delta.

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Stanley, D., Warne, A. Sea level and initiation of Predynastic culture in the Nile delta. Nature 363, 435–438 (1993).

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