Climate change, fishing and the Nile: changes in fishing techniques and technologies at the end of the Old Kingdom

John Burn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


Significant amounts of scientific evidence, from many varied fields exists, suggesting that Ancient Egypt experienced a prolonged drought at the end of the Old Kingdom; the worst of which was reached about 4200 years ago. It is thought that, because of these conditions, the resource base of the land diminished, and the administration did not appear to have coped. As a direct or indirect consequence, this lead to the fall of the Old Kingdom. Since the environment influences human society and art reflects the culture that produced it, then we should be able to make inferences about past environmental conditions through an analysis of decorations that society produced. If Egypt did experience a severe drought during the late Old Kingdom, then the evolution, composition, and context of tomb scenes, for example, should reveal evidence of a developing environmental awareness or a changing societal response. The corpus of Old Kingdom tomb themes produced by the Oxford Expedition to Egypt was investigated to see if the decoration programs in tombs changed over the time frame in question. A distribution and abundance analysis of the data was performed in order to identify if a succession sequence over time could be identified. Within this succession, certain scenes relating to particular marshland activities were observed to come into prominence and constitute an increasing importance in the proportion of decoration themes. The data suggested that fishing techniques and technologies changes in proportion, complexity and form over this time. A summary of the data will be presented and a link between the artistic evidence and changing environmental conditions will be suggested. Finally an interpretation of the ecological conditions of the marshlands at this time will be offered.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProfane landscapes, sacred spaces
EditorsMiroslav Bárta, Jiri Janák
Place of PublicationPrague
PublisherEquinox Publishing
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781781798478
ISBN (Print)9781781794098
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventProfane landscapes, sacred spaces - Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 26 Jun 201427 Jun 2014

Publication series

NameNew Directions in Anthropological Archaeology
PublisherEquinox Publishing


ConferenceProfane landscapes, sacred spaces
CountryCzech Republic


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