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Department of Earth Sciences

Climate Change and Earth-Ocean-Atmosphere Systems.


Current Research


Our work brings together geologists, archaeologists and historians to investigate the changing landscapes of the recent past. By combining geological observations with historical documents and archaeological excavation data we can reconstruct the development of ancient landscapes.
Working with our partners in Egypt and Sudan we have recovered sediment cores from sites ranging from the temple site of Sesebi in Northern Sudan along the Nile Floodplain and as far north as the Pyramids at Saqqara and Kom Firin in the Delta. These reveal a pattern of changing landscapes, some driven by climate change and others part of the patterns of landscape change, in particular the migration of the River Nile. For example, at the time of the building of the Khafra pyramid at Giza the Lybian desert at the quarries used by the pharaoh still experienced playa lake conditions while the conditions in the north were already dry and desert sand had begun to intrude the Nile Valley sediments.

Evidence for Nile migration has been collected at a number of sites. At Karnak (Luxor) the temple was initially built on an island but, with time, the island became bonded to the mainland and the temple extended onto the new ground created as a result of meandering of the Nile. Other sites where Nile migration has changed the geography include the Hierakonpolis / Edfu area where we are working in collaboration with the British Museum, the Lisht area (in collaboration with BBC1 and University of Birmingham, Alabama), Abusir (with Cardiff University) and the Memphis area (with Institute of Archaeology, University College London). We are also exploring the landscape of the Harem Palace at Gurob (Faiyum) with Liverpool University's Gurob Harem Palace Project.

In the Sahara desert, work with Salima Ikram of Cairo University in the Kharga Oasis is tracking routes from Kharga to Ain Amur (a desert well) and continues to explore how the routes changed with time and the increasingly sparse water resources in the area.
In collaboration with the MacDonald Institute we made a study of the Eidsborg Quarry (Dalen, Norway), an important source of Viking whetstones, and compared artefacts from the British Isles with the Eidsborg stone. We broadly conclude that the stones were transported as ballast in long ships travelling down what is now the route of the Telemark Canal and hence became symbolic of Viking affiliation in the areas which received the exports. In collaboration with the University of Tarragona, Spain we are currently exploring the development of the Ebro Delta (Spain) from the time that Tortosa was a Roman shipyard to the present.


Caption: Hypostyle Hall at Karnak - built on reclaimed land. 


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