Stratigraphic landscape analysis: charting the Holocene movements of the Nile at Karnak through ancient Egyptian time
Geological analysis of 5-10-m-long sediment cores in the context of the anthropologically derived materials within them has allowed us to identify ancient landscape features in the Theban area around Luxor, Egypt. From these observations we propose a sequence of island formation and northwestward movement of the Nile from the Middle Kingdom onward in the area of the temple complexes of Karnak. The geoarchaeological techniques used appear to document the Holocene lateral migration and vertical aggradation of the Nile. Our method can be used to test postulated movements and is applicable to sites in river or coastal plains where sediments were being deposited during the occupation of the site. The sediments were sieved to retrieve sherds and numerous other small items (2 mm and larger), which included worked stone fragments, rootlet concretions (rhizocretions), desert polished sand grains, and occasionally beads. The small stone fragments can be correlated with buildings and sherds of known age within the site, while the rhizocretions and desert sand grains indicate environmental conditions prevailing at the time of deposition.