A group of researchers has made a significant revelation regarding the extensive stone walls lining the Nile River. These structures, once thought to be mere walls, have now been identified as an impressive feat of hydraulic engineering from ancient times. This discovery not only sheds light on the advanced technological capabilities of past civilizations but also unveils the profound interconnections that thrived between the ancient societies of Nubia and Egypt.
How advanced were ancient civilizations? Very advanced. This is according to a recent study that discovered a 3,000-year-old hydraulic system in Egypt. Groundbreaking discoveries of an elaborate network of stone walls along the River Nile across Egypt and Sudan have uncovered ancient hydraulic engineering techniques. Not only do these findings enlighten us about the Nile Valley’s past, but they also foster a better understanding of ancient ties between Nubia and Egypt.
Hydraulic System Discovered in Egypt
Dr. Matthew Dalton of the UWA School of Humanities elucidates, “For over three millennia, this hydraulic system was pivotal in helping societies cultivate crops, enabling them to flourish in Nubia’s challenging terrain.”
These Nile “river groins” are significantly older than any other known examples, such as those in China’s Yellow River, by a whopping 2500 years.
Worldwide Collaboration Sheds Light on the Past
A team of international researchers, working in conjunction with the British Museum’s Amara West Research Project and the Sudanese National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, made these remarkable discoveries. Their findings have since been published in the esteemed Geoarchaeology journal.
Dr. Dalton and his team meticulously mapped and recorded the walls, spanning over 1100km of the Nile Valley. This detailed surveying aimed to decode their construction timeline, builders, and purpose. They revealed an intricate hydraulic system, approximately 3,000 years old.
Modern Technology Meets Ancient Innovations
Dr. Dalton describes the team’s methodology, “We utilized satellite imagery, drone and ground surveys, and historical sources to locate nearly 1300 river groins from the 1st Cataract in southern Egypt to the 4th Cataract in Sudan.”
Centuries-old diaries from 19th-century explorers, a 200-year-old map, and aerial photographs from archives, including images taken by the Royal Air Force in 1934, contributed to the discovery of hundreds of groins, now concealed under the Aswan High Dam reservoir.
These ancient river channels, now dried up due to climate change, yielded many findings. Radiocarbon and luminescence dating techniques confirmed that some structures were built over 3,000 years ago.
Sustainable Farming Through Ancient Technology
Dr. Dalton explains the purpose of these walls: “They trapped fertile silts during the Nile’s annual flooding, allowing crops to be cultivated on the reclaimed agricultural land, sans artificial irrigation.”
Radiometric dating indicates that this innovative landscaping was initiated by the indigenous Nubian communities and inhabitants of towns established later by New Kingdom Egyptian pharaohs. Dr. Dalton adds, “Our conversations with Sudanese Nubian farmers revealed that as recently as the 1970s, these groins were still being constructed, with some of the lands still farmed today.”
The team discovered much larger walls within the Nile, up to five meters thick and 200 meters long. These monumental river groins controlled river flow and facilitated boat navigation through treacherous Nile rapids. Dr. Dalton concludes, “These helped connect ancient Egypt and Nubia, enabling the movement of resources, armies, people, and ideas along the Nile.”