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Ancient lakes of the Sahara
Innovations Report ^ | Jan 19, 2006 | University of Reading

Posted on 01/21/2006 4:14:03 AM PST by Tyche

The Sahara has not always been the arid, inhospitable place that it is today – it was once a savannah teeming with life, according to researchers at the Universities of Reading and Leicester.

Eight years of studies in the Libyan desert area of Fazzan, now one of the harshest, most inaccessible spots on Earth, have revealed swings in its climate that have caused considerably wetter periods, lasting for thousands of years, when the desert turned to savannah and lakes provided water for people and animals.

This, in turn, has given us vital clues about the history of humans in the area and how these ancient inhabitants coped with climate change as the land began to dry up around them again.

In their article ‘Ancient lakes of the Sahara’, which appears in the January-February issue of American Scientist magazine, Dr Kevin White of the University of Reading and Professor David Mattingly of the University of Leicester explain how they used satellite technology and archaeological evidence to reveal new clues about both the past environment of the Sahara and of human prehistory in the area.

“The climate of the Sahara has been highly variable over the millennia and we have been able to provide much more specific dating of these changes,” said Dr White. “Over the last 10,000 years, there have been two distinct humid phases, separated by an interval of highly variable but generally drying conditions between roughly 8,000 and 7,000 years ago. Another drying trend took place after about 5,000 years ago, leading to today’s parched environment.”

The researchers determined where surface water was once present by using radar images of the desert taken from space. These images showed rivers, lakes and springs now buried below shifting sand dunes. As these bodies dried out thousands of years ago, the resulting mineral deposits cemented the lake sediments together and these hardened layers are detectable by using radar images.

“This information was essential because archaeologists need to focus their efforts near ancient rivers, lakes and springs, where people used to congregate due to their basic need for water,” said Dr White. “We found large quantities of stone tools around the ancient water sources, indicating at least two separate phases of human occupation.”

The earliest humans in the area were Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, who lived in the Fazzan between about 400,000 and 70,000 years ago. They survived by hunting large and small game in a landscape that was considerably wetter and greener than it is now. A prolonged arid phase from about 70,000 to 12,000 years ago apparently drove humans out of the region, but then the rains returned – along with the people.

Around 5,000 years ago the climate began to dry out again, but this time people adapted by developing an agricultural civilization with towns and villages based around oases. This process culminated with the emergence of the Garamantian society in the first millennium BC.

Professor Mattingly said: “We have been given a completely new view of this elusive and remarkable society. The Garamantes were known to the ancient Romans as a race of desert warriors, but archaeology has shown they had agriculture, cities and a phenomenally advanced system of water extraction that kept their civilisation going for 1,000 years as the land was drying up around them.”

They cultivated a variety of high-grade cereals, such as wheat and barley, and other crops such as date palms, vines, olives, cotton, vegetables and pulses.

As the Saharan climate began to dry out they drew their water from a large subterranean aquifer (an underground bed of rock that yields water) and transported it through a network of tunnels.

“The fact that the Garamantes developed this ingenious irrigation system shows that our ability to apply engineering solutions to deal with climate change is by no means only a modern phenomenon,” said Dr White. “The gradual drying up of springs and dessication of the surrounding landscape must have seemed ominous , but they knew they had to develop sophisticated methods to cope with it.

“But even this remarkably adaptable society – one of the first urban civilisations built in a desert – could not cope forever with a falling water table and intensifying aridity. Sometime around 500AD, the Garamantian society collapsed and their irrigation system fell into disuse.”

Associated with this research, Reading’s School of Human and Environmental Sciences, in collaboration with the Department of Meteorology, are undertaking a major project, linking climate, water and civilization in the Middle East and North Africa, with a £1,240,000 grant from the Leverhulme Trust.


TOPICS: Miscellaneous; Unclassified
KEYWORDS: africa; catastrophism; garamantes; globalwarminghoax; godsgravesglyphs; libya; paleoclimatology; sahara; saharaforest; water; weather
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See also, Crocodiles found living in Sahara Desert. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/06/0617_020618_croc.html
1 posted on 01/21/2006 4:14:04 AM PST by Tyche
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To: zot

Techno ping


2 posted on 01/21/2006 5:40:10 AM PST by GreyFriar ((3rd Armored Division -- Spearhead))
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To: Tyche
This can't be right. Everyone knows the global climate was perfectly balanced and stable until those awful Americans came along and ruined everything with their SUVs. I think it's George Bush's fault.

-ccm

3 posted on 01/21/2006 7:38:09 AM PST by ccmay (Too much Law; not enough Order)
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To: GreyFriar

Very interesting. Thanks for the ping.


4 posted on 01/21/2006 3:36:33 PM PST by zot (GWB -- four more years!)
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To: Tyche

Even at its greenest the Sahara was not all lush vegetation. Better than now, but still kind of hot and dusty.


5 posted on 01/21/2006 3:44:41 PM PST by RightWhale (pas de lieu, Rhone que nous)
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To: Tyche

bump


6 posted on 01/21/2006 3:49:43 PM PST by VOA
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To: blam; FairOpinion; Ernest_at_the_Beach; StayAt HomeMother; 24Karet; 3AngelaD; asp1; ...

Archaeologica · Mirabilis · Texas AM Anthropology News · ArchaeoBlog
Archaeology magazine · Biblical Archaeology Society · Archaeology Odyssey · post a topic


7 posted on 02/12/2006 9:19:14 AM PST by SunkenCiv (Islam is medieval fascism, and the Koran is a medieval Mein Kampf.)
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To: SunkenCiv

There is a microwave band sat map that shows the lakes and rivers.... looking for it to post....


8 posted on 02/12/2006 9:27:33 AM PST by xcamel (One should hope Global Dumbing is reversible.)
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To: Tyche

Great post. The Garamante civilization held on for a long time given the circumstances described. Does anyone know anything else about them?


9 posted on 02/12/2006 9:29:03 AM PST by zakbrow (I'm running out of places to bury the bodies.)
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To: Tyche
Oh no!

Could it be true that there really was a WORLDWIDE flood?

Nah, evolutionists simply will not accept that.
10 posted on 02/12/2006 9:34:38 AM PST by nmh (Intelligent people believe in Intelligent Design (God))
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To: nmh; jec41; PatrickHenry
Could it be true that there really was a WORLDWIDE flood? Nah, evolutionists simply will not accept that.

How is that evidence for a WORLDWIDE flood?

The earliest humans in the area were Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, who lived in the Fazzan between about 400,000 and 70,000 years ago. They survived by hunting large and small game in a landscape that was considerably wetter and greener than it is now. A prolonged arid phase from about 70,000 to 12,000 years ago apparently drove humans out of the region, but then the rains returned – along with the people.

Just FYI, I know Blam doesn't like to turn this into a CREO thread.

11 posted on 02/12/2006 9:57:59 AM PST by phantomworker (If you're not confused, you're not paying attention.)
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To: SunkenCiv

Ancient Sahara lakes!!
How I love this ping list! Big sloppy kiss to you, SunkenCiv! To paraphrase Alexander...if I were not Graymatter I would be SunkenCiv. :)


12 posted on 02/12/2006 10:09:05 AM PST by Graymatter
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To: zakbrow

How interesting. Garamante=Black Dutch. Seems like a catch-all phrase.

http://www.geocities.com/mikenassau/BlackDutch.htm

"At other times and places, they were called Bohemians (as in La Boheme) because they were thought to be from what is now the Czech Republic."


13 posted on 02/12/2006 10:13:05 AM PST by phantomworker (If you're not confused, you're not paying attention.)
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To: phantomworker
LOL!

When evidence is presented you don't want to hear about it.

Next you have to rally the atheists to turn attention away from world wide flood evidence. What a sorry group these evolutionists are and always will be.
14 posted on 02/12/2006 10:14:07 AM PST by nmh (Intelligent people believe in Intelligent Design (God))
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To: phantomworker

Interesting. Thanks.


15 posted on 02/12/2006 10:15:31 AM PST by PatrickHenry (Virtual Ignore for trolls, lunatics, dotards, scolds, & incurable ignoramuses.)
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To: nmh

Where is your evidence?


16 posted on 02/12/2006 10:15:48 AM PST by phantomworker (If you're not confused, you're not paying attention.)
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To: xcamel
There is a microwave band sat map that shows the lakes and rivers.... looking for it to post....

Here's one showing a hidden section of the Nile river, I bet if you poke around some of the links you can find the lakes too.

Click the pic for the page link. Facinating stuff.

17 posted on 02/12/2006 10:24:24 AM PST by PeaceBeWithYou (De Oppresso Liber! (50 million and counting in Afganistan and Iraq))
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To: phantomworker
Did it flood the driest place on earth where in some spots life does not even exist?

The Driest Place on Earth By: Leslie Mullen In Northern Chile, a pick-up truck bumps along dusty old mining roads toward the Atacama Desert. A team of scientists is driving from the coastal town of Antofagasta, and they occasionally pass other vehicles on the road - mostly prospectors searching for metals and minerals. After an hour, they arrive at a lonely meteorological station situated in the driest part of a very dry desert. The scientists have come to the Atacama to investigate how much water life needs to survive. Water is necessary for life, but water is so scarce in the Atacama that it is a wonder anything can live there at all. Some parts of the desert have not seen rain for centuries. The desert itself is thought to be between 10 to 15 million years old, making it the oldest desert on Earth. The Atacama is probably also the driest desert in the world. While some areas of the Atacama along the coast have succulent plants like cacti, the more arid parts of the desert have no vegetation. These parched regions do not even have cyanobacteria - green photosynthetic microorganisms that live in rocks or under stones in most other deserts. The Atacama desert is one of the driest places on Earth. Scientists are searching for traces of microorganisms in this extreme environment. Credit: Carnegie Mellon University Over the course of five expeditions to the Atacama, the scientists have been searching for any traces of microscopic life in the desert rocks. "What we are studying is, 'What is the limit of life?'" says Imre Friedmann, a microbiologist with Florida State University and the NASA Ames Research Center. "At the moment, we do not know the limit of life along the aridity gradient. Organisms may have several strategies to cope. Some organisms become desiccated; others can live with very little water. Some organisms, like the common mold, can take up water from the atmosphere if the humidity is above a certain level. But these strategies aren't very well explored, and the conditions are very difficult to replicate in the lab." The best way to study such life is to go outside and observe Nature's laboratory - a far more complex structure than any man-made lab. While this is possible in the Atacama, at the moment such a field trip is impossible for the planet Mars. But by studying life in the Atacama, scientists hope to learn more about the possibility of life on Mars. Mars has two major factors affecting life: the planet is very cold - with an average temperature of minus 69 degrees C (minus 92 F) - and it is very dry. Although channels and basins seem to give testament to liquid water on the surface of Mars, they probably were created long ago. Today, any water on Mars will be in the form of ice - an essentially "dry" medium. Extreme Life Briefing Hottest: 235 F (113 C) Pyrolobus fumarii (Volcano Island, Italy) Coldest: 5 F (-15 C) Cryptoendoliths (Antarctica) Highest Radiation: (5 MRad, or 5000x what kills humans) Deinococcus radiodurans Deepest: 3.2 km underground Acid: pH 0.0 (most life is at least factor of 100,000 less acidic) pH 5-8 Basic: pH 12.8 (most life is at least factor of 1000 less basic) pH 5-8 Longest in space: 6 years Bacillus subtilis (NASA satellite) High Pressure (1200 times atmospheric) Saltiest: 30% salt, or 9 times human blood saltiness. Haloarcula Smallest: <0.1 micron or 500 fit across a human hair width (picoplankton) Credit: USGS "When is dry too dry for life?" asks Chris McKay, a planetary scientist with NASA Ames. "In the Atacama, we think we have crossed that threshold." The Atacama, however, is not as dry as Mars. It is not as cold as Mars, either, although it is cooler than most other deserts on Earth. The Atacama enjoys a temperate, Mediterranean-like climate with temperatures ranging between 0 and 23 degrees C (32 to 73 F). "The problem with having an Earth analog of Mars is that Mars is both extremely cold and very dry - on Earth, both conditions don't often occur together," says Friedmann. "In Antarctica, we studied the affect of cold on life. Atacama will help us answer the other question about Mars: the affect of dryness on life." The Antarctic studies showed scientists that cold itself is not necessarily fatal to life. Life can tolerate very low temperatures and the process of freezing. But problems occur when low temperatures persist for long periods of time. All organisms on Earth need a period every now and then when they can awaken from their winter hibernation. They use this time to gather energy, repair any DNA damage their cells may have incurred from UV radiation, grow in size, and reproduce. "There are places in Antarctica that are 'dead' because there are not enough hours of warmer temperatures," says Friedmann. "Even asleep, organisms need energy. The dead areas are where organisms must have used more energy than they could produce." Antarctica makes a good Mars analogue because the region is both cold and essentially dry. But Antarctica experiences seasonal fluctuations when the ice in the microorganism's environment melts, so it can not answer questions about the water limits of life. To learn more about the "dry" part of the Mars question, Friedmann, McKay, and others are now focusing on the Atacama. "The soils in the extreme arid core region of the Atacama appear to be the most lifeless and Mars-like on Earth," says McKay. The large deposits of nitrate in the Atacama indicate the area has very little life. The nitrate is produced by electrical discharges (lightning): during storms, the lightning causes nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere to combine to form nitrate. This nitrate precipitates down to the desert floor, but in such small amounts it is not discernable. "You cannot see or feel the tiny amounts of falling nitrate, and it doesn't collect in your clothes," says Friedmann. "After a year, though, you can show by chemical tests their presence in a rock." Normally, bacteria and plants immediately use up any nitrate produced by lightning. The accumulation of nitrate - such as the deposits found in the Atacama - usually means there is no life present. While cyanobacteria appear to be absent, the scientists did find small numbers of heterotrophic bacteria in some Atacama desert soils. Instead of producing their own energy through photosynthesis - as cyanobacteria do - heterotrophic bacteria gather their energy by feeding on other organisms. The scientists don't know what these Atacama bacteria are eating, or how they get their water. They are not even sure why some spots of the desert had the heterotrophic bacteria, while other areas seemed to be completely lifeless. "It may be awhile before we understand the water limits of life," says Friedmann. "The Antarctic studies took us 20 years before we felt we had an answer about the limits of low temperature." In addition to water limits, the scientists are also hoping to determine how organisms develop defenses against UV radiation. Such radiation would be yet another limit to life on Mars, which experiences more intense radiation than Earth. Friedmann cautions that while the Atacama studies may go a long way toward improving our understanding of the limits of life, they will not fully answer our questions about life on Mars. "All our Earth analogies are much weaker than the conditions that are present on Mars," says Friedmann. "Mars is much drier, much colder, with much more intense UV radiation." What's Next "Our main focus right now is to understand these organic-free, sterile, and presumably oxidizing soils that we find in the core of the Atacama Desert," says McKay. For instance, by combining measurements from nature, theoretical equations, and lab experiments, the scientists hope to determine what sort of climate microorganisms may experience in the soils of the Atacama. "Microorganisms live in a different climate than what we live in," says Friedmann. "They live between particles in the soil, in compact places with very small distances. We're trying to measure the climate in these tight places."

18 posted on 02/12/2006 10:39:32 AM PST by jec41 (Screaming Eagle)
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To: nmh

Start yer own thread. It's not that hard.


19 posted on 02/12/2006 10:44:54 AM PST by null and void (<---- Aged to perfection, and beyond...)
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To: Tyche

Dry sand regions are ideal for the SAR experiments. They are using this tech on Mars as well for the same purpose. What are the chances of finding ancient villages along old river channels and around old lakes? Good, in fact some have been found, but not on Mars as yet.


20 posted on 02/12/2006 10:48:36 AM PST by RightWhale (pas de lieu, Rhone que nous)
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