Ancient form of hydraulic engineering revealed along Nile

A team of international researchers have made a significant discovery about ancient hydraulic engineering in the Nile Valley. They found a vast network of stone walls along the River Nile in Egypt and Sudan, shedding light on the connections between ancient Nubia and Egypt.

These structures, known as Nile ‘river groynes,’ are even older than the previously known examples on the Yellow River in China by more than 2500 years. The study, conducted in collaboration with the Sudanese National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, was part of the British Museum’s Amara West Research Project and has been published in the journal Geoarchaeology.

Lead author Dr. Matthew Dalton from The University of Western Australia’s School of Humanities explained that the team used various methods, including satellite imagery, drones, ground surveys, and historical sources, to map and record nearly 1300 ‘river groynes’ spanning over 1100km of the Nile Valley.

Some of these groynes, submerged beneath the Aswan High Dam reservoir, were documented in 19th-century travelers’ diaries, a 200-year-old map, and archives of aerial photographs, including those taken by the Royal Air Force in 1934.

Using radiocarbon and luminescence dating techniques, the researchers found that some of the structures were constructed over 3,000 years ago. Additionally, the team identified larger stone walls within the Nile, called barrages, which were up to five meters thick and 200 meters long.

These barrages played a crucial role in directing river flow and facilitating safe boat navigation through treacherous Nile rapids.

“These monumental river groynes helped connect the people of ancient Egypt and Nubia by facilitating long-distance movement of resources, armies, people and ideas along the Nile,” Dr Dalton said.

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