A study in Nature Geoscience has revealed how changes in the River Nile during the past 11,500 years may have shaped ancient Egypt. 

The study, led by Dr Angus Graham from Uppsala University in Sweden and archaeologists and geographers from the University of Southampton, explores how geographical changes may have greatly influenced ancient Egyptian civilization.

The findings of the study say the Nile experienced a major shift around 4,000 years ago, leading to an extensive expansion of the valley's floodplain around Luxor.

This fluctuation could have fortified the ancient Egyptian agricultural economy between the Old and the New Kingdom periods, the latter being a time of unparalleled prosperity, cultural achievement and military conquest.

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Dr Benjamin Pennington, a co-author on the paper from the University of Southampton said: "The expansion of the floodplain will have greatly enlarged the area of arable land in the Nile Valley near Luxor (ancient Thebes) and improved the fertility of the soil by regularly depositing fertile silts.

"While no specific causal links can be inferred between this shift and any contemporaneous social developments, the changes in the landscape are nonetheless an important factor that need to be considered when discussing the trajectory of Ancient Egyptian culture."

Daily Echo: The research reveals a major shift in the Nile around four thousand years agoThe research reveals a major shift in the Nile around four thousand years ago (Image: Supplied)

Through their research, the team unveiled that significant valley incision took place in the Nile, meaning from around 11,500 to 4,000 years ago, the river sliced deeper into its bed, hence creating intense flooding due to narrow channels.

Earlier, during the Epipalaeolithic period, the Nile's landscape consisted of a dynamic wandering-braided system. However, the Nile we know today, bearing singular, more stable channels, didn't establish itself until about 2,000 years ago.

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This major transformation in the Nile's behaviour seems to be a result of a reduction in the river's water volume and an increase in fine sediment supply.

This was driven by the aridification of the Nile basin, with the 'Green Sahara' of the African Humid Period transforming into the present-day hyper-arid Sahara Desert. This shift in climate might have combined with human impacts on the land, making the soil more erosion-prone.

The research was funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and Uppsala University.