Scientists will study the climate of Egypt thousands of years ago

PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland

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Geological drilling conducted by the NCCP project in the Fayoum Oasis, on the shore of Lake Moeris. Photo by F. Welc

Eight several metres deep boreholes in northern Egypt have been drilled by a team of Polish scientists led by Prof. Leszek Marks of the Faculty of Geology, University of Warsaw. Detailed analysis of the obtained cores will allow the reconstruction of climate in this area over the last 10,000 years.

Drilling was carried out in February in the area of Lakes Edku, Borolus and Mariout in the northern Nile Delta. Articularly important, however, will be the analyses of geological cores from the Fayoum Oasis - from the southern shore part of Lake Moeris (Birket Qarun), as these cores have provided interesting information.

Previous researchers have made a number of geological drillings in the area, but without analysis as detailed as planned by the Polish team. Now, from only 8 cores researchers have collected more than 1,000 samples. Some of them will be tested in Polish laboratories by specialists in various fields of science.

"No one has ever obtained similarly complete cores from this area, or subjected them to such a detailed analysis. Therefore, the results of our project will be crucial for the reconstruction of the natural environment in Egypt, also with regard to research on the history of Egyptian civilization" - explained project coordinator, Dr. Fabian Welc of the Institute of Archaeology, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw.

"We will date the samples using the radioactive carbon C14 method, we will examine the residual remains of plants, diatoms, and molluscs. In addition, we will perform a number of specialized analyses, including granulometric, lithological and geochemical tests. As a result, we will be able to precisely trace the changes in the environment of ancient Egypt over several millennia" - said Dr. Welc.

The goal of researchers is to correlate the results of geological work with the results of archaeologists in northern Egypt. Preliminary results of the analyses of cores are promising, according to the project team.

"In the case of one of the cores we measured magnetic susceptibility of collected sediments. High ferromagnetism, i.e. magnetization, indicates the formation of the sediment during a dry period, low ferromagnetism - a humid, wet period. We already know that the preliminary comparison of the results works and complements existing findings of archaeologists "- believes Dr. Welc.

For drilling, Polish researchers used a self-propelled drilling rig from U.S. company Acer. The device allows measurements up to a depth of 150 meters. The material is recovered in the full core technology - sediments are extracted to the surface inside plastic tubes, with their structure intact. This allows to safely transport them to laboratories, and extracted sediments are protected from pollutants.

The three-year Nile Climate Change Project (NCCP) is funded by a grant awarded by the National Science Centre to the Faculty of Geology, University of Warsaw. The projects has logistical support of the Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of the University of Warsaw.

The members of the international NCCP team: Prof. Leszek Marks (Department of Climate Geology, Faculty of Geology, University of Warsaw), Prof. Alaa Salem (Egyptian project coordinator, Faculty of Earth Sciences, University of Kafr el Sheik in the Nile Delta), Dr. Fabian Welc and Prof. Jerzy Nitychoruk, lacustrine sediments expert (Pope John Paul II State School of Higher Education in Biała Podlaska). The project team is assisted by many other scholars from Poland, Egypt and China.