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Pierre M. Vermeersch and Wim Van Neer (2015)

Nile behaviour and Late Palaeolithic humans in Upper Egypt during the Late Pleistocene

Quaternary Science Reviews, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.03.025.

The reconstruction of the environment and the human population history of the Nile Valley during the Late Pleistocene have received a lot of attention in the literature thus far. There seems to be a consensus that during MIS2 extreme dry conditions prevailed over north-eastern Africa, which was apparently not occupied by humans. The Nile Valley seems to be an exception; numerous field data have been collected suggesting an important population density in Upper Egypt during MIS2. The occupation remains are often stratified in, or at least related to, aeolian and Nile deposits at some elevation above the present-day floodplain. They are rich in lithics and animal bones, mainly fish, illustrating the exploitation of the Nile Valley by the Late Palaeolithic inhabitants. The fluvial processes active during that period have traditionally been interpreted as a continuously rising highly braided river. In this paper we summarize the evidence thus far available for the Late Pleistocene on the population densities in the Nile Valley, and on the models of Nilotic behaviour. In the discussion we include data on the environmental conditions in Eastern Africa, on the aeolian processes in the Western Desert of Egypt derived from satellite images, 14C and OSL dates, in order to formulate a new model that explains the observed high remnants of aeolian and Nilotic deposits and the related Late Palaeolithic sites. This model hypothesizes that, during the Late Pleistocene, and especially the LGM, dunes from the Western Desert invaded the Nile Valley at several places in Upper Egypt. The much reduced activity of the White Nile and the Blue Nile was unable to evacuate incoming aeolian sand and, as a consequence, several dams were created in the Upper Egyptian Nile Valley. Behind such dams the created lakes offered ideal conditions for human subsistence. This model explains the occurrence of Late Palaeolithic hunter–fisher–gatherers in a very arid environment with very low Nile flows, even in late summer. Keywords: River Nile; Late Palaeolithic; Egypt; Geomorphology; Late Glacial Maximum (LGM); Late Pleistocene; Endorheic environment
Peer Review, International Redaction Board, Impact Factor, Open Access
IF = 4.571
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