Ancient Mega-Lake Discovered in Egyptian Desert

The hyper-arid deserts of western Egypt were once home to a verdant mega-lake fed by the Nile River's earliest annual floods.

Fossil fish and space shuttle radar images have defined the bed and drainage channels of the long lost lake, which at times was bigger than Lake Michigan, stretching as far as 250 miles west of the Nile in southwestern Egypt.

The discovery pushes back the origin of the "Gift of the Nile" floods to more than a quarter million years ago and paints a severely different picture of Egypt's environment than is seen today. It also explains the longstanding puzzle of the fossilized fish found in the desert -- fish that are of the same kinds that live in today's Nile River.

Although the topography is convincing, the evidence by itself isn't sufficient to prove a lake was there or how it was created.

Then there are the fish fossils, which are unmistakable proof for their having been Nile-related water filling the basin.

There are also archaeological sites, said Maxwell that helps to approximately confine the dates of the lake's surface elevation in more recent times. Maxwell and his coauthors Bahay Issawi and C. Vance Haynes, Jr., published their study in the December issue of the journal Geology.

The older sedimentary remnants associated with springs and archaeological artifacts seem to point to local rains or groundwater creating lakes that were smaller and smaller over time and not from the Nile, said Hill. Those sources could have, perhaps, distended the lake enough to join and flow into the Nile and permit the fish to move upstream into the lake, without Nile flooding. That would mean the water at Wadi Tushka would have been flowing east into the Nile rather than west into the lake.

In other words, the lake surely existed, but the jury is still out on how it got there.
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