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Climatic blips from Egypt

13 September 2014

At http://news.ucsc.edu/2014/09/egyptian-mammals.html … a paper in PNAS (Sept 8th 2014) sets out to assemble a record of large mammals living in the Nile Valley – over the last 6000 years. Therefore it doesn't seek to catalogue the fauna of the early Holocene when the Sahara was a much wetter environment. The arid climate appears to have set in as a result of a series of step changes – periods of very dry climate that correspond with low growth tree ring events. The end of the Old Kingdom and the end of the New Kingdom are said to be two examples of these climate blips – or very dry episodes.

Six thousand years  ago there is evidence of 37 species of large mammals in the Nile Valley. Only 8 of them survived into the modern world. Predynastic art depicts lions, wild dogs, elephants, oryx, hartebeest, giraffe etc., a fairly diverse collection of animals that one might associate with a savannal like environment, the situation in the early Holocene. Animals and humans, it seems, migrated to the Nile Valley – and its water. Multiple species of gazelle and small herbivores have also been lost.

The study also made use of a book by a zoologist, Dale Osborne 'The Mammals of Ancient Egypt' (1998) which provided a picture of Egypt's animals based on archaeology and palaeontology. The new study is computer based and produced by modelling techniques which included a computational analysis of the dynamics of predator-prey networks likely to be found in ancient Egypt.

The same story is at www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140908152916.htm … and both articles go on to say the researchers identified five episodes over the last 6000 years when dramatic change occurred in the mammalian communities. This does not necessarily parallel the very dry phases in climate as other factors, mainly human activity, also brought pressure to bear on wild animals. Some of them did though – as at the end of the LB age.

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