Scientists uncover long-lost Nile branch: Key to building Egypt’s Pyramids

The water course of the ancient Ahramat Branch borders a large number of pyramids dating from the Old Kingdom to the Second Intermediate Period, spanning between the Third Dynasty and the Thirteenth Dynasty. Credit: Eman Ghoneim

Some 31 pyramids in Egypt, including the famous Giza pyramids, may have been built along a now-buried branch of the Nile River.

This branch, stretching 64 kilometers, was discovered through new research reported in Communications Earth & Environment.

The findings could explain why these pyramids are found in what is now a narrow, harsh desert strip.

The Egyptian pyramid fields between Giza and Lisht were built over nearly 1,000 years, starting around 4,700 years ago.

Today, they sit on the edge of the Western Desert, part of the vast Sahara. Sedimentary evidence suggests that the Nile once had a much higher water flow and split into several branches.

Researchers have long speculated that one of these branches flowed near the pyramid fields, but this had not been confirmed until now.

Eman Ghoneim and colleagues used satellite imagery to locate the possible site of an ancient river branch running along the Western Desert Plateau’s foothills, close to the pyramid fields.

They confirmed this by conducting geophysical surveys and analyzing sediment cores, which showed the presence of river sediments and former channels beneath the modern landscape.

They propose naming this lost branch “Ahramat,” which means pyramids in Arabic.

The researchers suggest that a major drought around 4,200 years ago caused a significant build-up of windblown sand. This may have led the Ahramat branch to migrate eastward and eventually silt up.

This discovery may explain why the pyramid fields are concentrated along this specific desert strip near the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.

During the time the pyramids were built, this branch would have made the area easily accessible by water.

Many pyramids had causeways ending at the proposed riverbanks of the Ahramat branch, indicating that the river was likely used for transporting construction materials.

The findings highlight the Nile’s critical role as a transportation route and cultural lifeline for ancient Egyptians.

They also show how environmental changes have historically impacted human societies.

According to the authors, understanding the location of these extinct Nile branches can guide future archaeological excavations and help protect Egypt’s cultural heritage.

Future research to discover more extinct Nile branches could provide further insights and aid in preserving Egypt’s historical treasures.

Source: KSR.