December 26, 1988
We had a nice Christmas and I hope that you and your family had the same. I enjoyed reading your letter on the plane.
I read a few weeks ago that it's been so dry in Egypt that Lake Nasser was running dry. Then today the paper said that there were unseasonably heavy rainstorms sweeping across northern Egypt. Houses had collapsed in Cairo and a place called Tanta. Do you know where that is?
I looked up the history of early Egypt. In prehistory the Sahara was different, raining all the time, full of canoes and elephants, Lake Chad one hundred feet higher until 3000 BC. For 12000 years the desert had supported game allowing hunting and herding or nomadic pastoralism but then the land began to dry up. One reference says that between 6000 and 4000 BC the Nile had been subject to flooding and lake leves at Fayum were high until a drier period at about 3500 BC followed by a wet spike at about 3200 BC. This is supposed to be at the time corresponding to the predynastic Nagada (Naqadah?) cultures (Brewer, D.J. The Holocene, 1992) .
Now begins the Early Dynastic period, unification of upper and lower Egypt; the first pyramid is at 2980 BC. There is an odd little fragment of pottery that shows unmistakably a man holding a hoe and approaching a levee. There has been a good deal of debate about just what the illustration represents; some claim that it is a king ceremoniously cutting an irrigation ditch, others claiming that he is laying the foundations for a temple. Suggestions of irrigated fields, wavy water lines, at the top of the fragment. The current theory is that the figure is Scorpion King, last of the pre-dynastic kings. The king is about to cut a levee to start irrigating a field. The shortage of water requires irrigation. Of course irrigation requires experts! With irrigation begins the Early Dynastic period, unification of upper and lower Egypt. Significant flooding will not occur again in East Africa for more than 1000 yrs.
Happy New Year!
Copyright 1996 Kirribili Press. Return to Scientific Summary Chronological Index Ignatius Donnelly and the End of the World