The Nile solves Africa's great survival riddle

1st May 2013

The River Nile has provided the answer to a centuries-old mystery of how one of Africa's greatest civilisations survived a devastating drought.

Today the renowned Kerma is no more.

It stood where northern Sudan now lies and was the continent's first Bronze Age kingdom outside Egypt.

Researchers from the universities of Aberystwyth, Manchester, and Adelaide say the Nile made life viable for Kerma throughout the water shortages which obliterated other famous dynasties.

Their study of three ancient river channels where the Nile once flowed shows, for the first time, that its floods weren't too low or too high to sustain life between 2,500 BC and 1,500 BC.

This is when Kerma thrived and was a major rival to its more famous neighbour.

Downstream in Egypt, today so favoured by holidaymakers on group tours benefiting from the wonders of modern irrigation, a catastrophic drought 4,200 years ago created chaos in the old kingdom for at least a century.

Other civilisations in the near east and Mesopotamia were also badly hit.

The team used state-of-the-art geological dating methods to research the dried-up channels - now 20 km (12.4 miles) from the today's river course.

Researchers also showed the thousand-year-old Kerma civilisation ended when the Nile's flood levels were not high enough and a major channel system dried out.

An invasion by resurgent Egyptians was the final cause of Kerma's demise, however.

The findings are published in the journal Geology.

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