A river in drought: consequences of a low Nile at the end of the Old Kingdom

John William Burn

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It is thought that a significant factor in the fall of the Egyptian Old Kingdom was the occurrence of a number of lower than average inundation events that led to a decline in agricultural output, causing a famine that undermined the authority of the government. However, very little consideration has been given to how a lesser volume of water may have impacted upon the Nile itself. This composition investigates the potential for ecological change that may have developed as a consequence of a lower river. Since a lower river exhibits less force, its physical properties should change, which would in turn alter the chemical and biological factors that are expressed. A low Nile should therefore have resulted in changes to the distribution and abundance of plant life along the river. Four plants characteristic to Pharaonic times were investigated to see how they may have responded. Papyrus and Phragmites are suggested as plants that would benefit from a situation where the nutrients remained within the river, whereas Typha and Lotus display characteristic that benefit less when the river retains nutrients that would have normally been lost to the surrounding landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-460
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironment and Ecology Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Ancient Egypt
  • Nile
  • drought
  • environmental response
  • climate change


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