Sunday, August 19, 2012

Egypt's Old Kingdom Done in by Massive Drought

Who do you blame if, year after year, the Gods and Goddesses refuse to send the life-giving floods down the Nile River from the highlands to the delta?  If, after years of unanswered prayers and supplications and who knows what kind of sacrifices, the waters still do not come, did people lose faith in their Gods, Goddesses, and the rulers who were supposed to be Gods themselves?

How are we in the 21st century going to deal with rains that don't come when we need them, tornadoes and hurricanes of force we have yet to see, and rising oceans that cannot be held back no matter what we build...  Will Africa starve when America cannot produce enough food to even feed it's own people?  What about China?  India?  Australia?

Unless I discover the Fountain of Youth in my backyard I won't be alive to see the worst effects of the climate changes we are currently beginning to undergo.  They are not reversible; regardless of whether you believe what we're experiencing and will continue to experience to a greater and greater degree in the coming years is man-made or just a natural cycle of the Earth/Universe, they are coming and they will get worse, and for a long long time, before things start to get better.  We're not ready for it, of course.  We're still pissing and moaning about causes rather than ramping up population relocation away from coastal areas and vunerable low-lying lands and river valleys; who wants to leave Manhattan, after all?  But Manhattan will be under water 100 years from now.  Think about that.  And stashing away food -- why aren't we doing that?  Our ability to feed ourselves may decrease by 75% in less than 50 years.  And we're doing - zilch.  Certain political groups think that by trying to force the world back to the mores of the 19th century we will somehow save ourselves.  What a joke.  Unfortunately, a deadly joke for future generations.

There is a reason for the saying that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.  The lessons of the past are all around us, and our clueless leaders wold rather argue about more tax cuts for the rich (who will also die, they'll just last longer than the poor and the average joes who will quickly run out of resources) than face the hard realities of what is coming, indeed, what is happening right now, all around us.

Climate and drought lessons from ancient Egypt

August 16, 2012

Ancient pollen and charcoal preserved in deeply buried sediments in Egypt's Nile Delta document the region's ancient droughts and fires, including a huge drought 4,200 years ago associated with the demise of Egypt's Old Kingdom, the era known as the pyramid-building time. 
"Humans have a long history of having to deal with climate change," said Christopher Bernhardt, a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey. "Along with other research, this study geologically reveals that the evolution of societies is sometimes tied to climate variability at all scales – whether decadal or millennial."

Bernhardt conducted this research as part of his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, along with Benjamin Horton, an associate professor in Penn's Department of Earth and Environmental Science. Jean-Daniel Stanley at the Smithsonian Institution also participated in the study, published in July's edition of Geology.

"Even the mighty builders of the ancient pyramids more than 4,000 years ago fell victim when they were unable to respond to a changing climate," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "This study illustrates that water availability was the climate-change Achilles Heel then for Egypt, as it may well be now, for a planet topping seven billion thirsty people."

The researchers used pollen and charcoal preserved in a Nile Delta sediment core dating from 7,000 years ago to the present to help resolve the physical mechanisms underlying critical events in ancient Egyptian history.

They wanted to see if changes in pollen assemblages would reflect ancient Egyptian and Middle East droughts recorded in archaeological and historical records. The researchers also examined the presence and amount of charcoal because fire frequency often increases during times of drought, and fires are recorded as charcoal in the geological record. The scientists suspected that the proportion of wetland pollen would decline during times of drought and the amount of charcoal would increase.

And their suspicions were right.

Large decreases in the proportion of wetland pollen and increases in microscopic charcoal occurred in the core during four different times between 3,000 and 6,000 years ago. One of those events was the abrupt and global mega-drought of around 4,200 years ago, a drought that had serious societal repercussions, including famines, and which probably played a role in the end of Egypt's Old Kingdom and affected other Mediterranean cultures as well.

"Our pollen record appears very sensitive to the decrease in precipitation that occurred in the mega-drought of 4,200 years ago," Bernhardt said. "The vegetation response lasted much longer compared with other geologic proxy records of this drought, possibly indicating a sustained effect on delta and Nile basin vegetation."

Similarly, pollen and charcoal evidence recorded two other large droughts: one that occurred some 5,000 to 5,500 years ago and another that occurred around 3,000 years ago.

These events are also recorded in human history – the first one started some 5,000 years ago when the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt occurred and the Uruk Kingdom in modern Iraq collapsed. The second event, some 3,000 years ago, took place in the eastern Mediterranean and is associated with the fall of the Ugarit Kingdom and famines in the Babylonian and Syrian Kingdoms.

"The study geologically demonstrates that when deciphering past climates, pollen and other micro-organisms, such as charcoal, can augment or verify written or archaeological records – or they can serve as the record itself if other information doesn't exist or is not continuous," said Horton.                               

More information: The study, Nile delta response to Holocene climate variability, was published in the July edition of Geology.

Journal reference: Geology Provided by United States Geological Survey


The comments at the end of the article (online at website) are very interesting.  I excerpted one, below:

Shelgeyr Aug 16, 2012
Rank: not rated yet

There are (largely undocumented, possibly neolithic) ruins in Egypt located too far south to really be considered part of the known ancient Kharga/Baris/Khysis area, and yet they occur within vast portions of the western desert, even away from the caravan routes.

The Kharga Aquifer used to underlay this entire region.Examples (use Google Maps/Earth and zoom in):

24.518203,30.704738 (ancient well next to ruins)
24.523928,30.704624 (only the outlines remain)

These remnants are by no means exclusive; ruins run all throughout this region.

Hmmm...  Perhaps the Egyptians called the west the Land of the Dead because it did become, indeed, the land of many dead after the drought of 4,200 years ago -- thus, an actual allusion to an historical memory, not just a metaphorical or religious reference! 

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