Wadi Kubbaniya And The Kom Ombo Plain
skeleton was found in a shallow pit. The burial was of an adult male, 1.73m tall and 35 to 40 years old at the time of death. According to the arm and chest bones, he was disabled during his last years. This is interpreted as reflecting social commitment to such members of the local group. All of this raises interesting questions about the degree of social organisation among people living in coastal sites during the LGM that now lie below the waves.
3.14 WADI KUBBANIYA AND THE KOM OMBO PLAIN In Egypt, evidence of human occupation around the end of the LGM has been found at a number of sites. At the time, the general aridity of the climate greatly reduced the flow of the river Nile. Indeed for much of the time, the White Nile flowing from equatorial Africa disappeared into the dunes of the Sahara in the region that now constitutes the great El Sudd swamplands in southern Sudan. The reduced flow of the Blue Nile from the Highlands of Ethiopia, which were grasslands, carried much more sediment than now. So, along much of its length, the Nile Valley built up silt to some 30 m above current levels.
The best-known site is at Wadi Kubbaniya, a dried-up streambed cutting through the Western Desert to the floodplain northwest of Aswan in Upper Egypt (Wendorf et al., 1979; Wendorf et al., 1984). A cluster of camps was located on the tops of dunes and the floor of the wadi where it enters the valley. Although no signs of houses were found, diverse and sophisticated stone implements for hunting, fishing, and collecting and processing plants were discovered around hearths. Most tools were bladelets made from chert. The bones of wild cattle, hartebeest, many types of fish and birds, and even the occasional hippopotamus have been identified in the occupation layers. Charred remains of plants that the inhabitants consumed, especially tubers, have also been found.
It appears from the zoological and botanical remains at the various sites in this wadi that the two environmental zones were exploited at different times. We know that the dune sites were occupied when the Nile River flooded the wadi because large numbers of fish and migratory bird bones were found at this location. When the water receded, people then moved down onto the silt left behind on the wadi floor and the floodplain, probably following large animals that looked for water there in the dry season. Palaeolithic peoples lived at Wadi Kubbaniya for about two thousand years, exploiting the different environments as the seasons changed. Other ancient camps have been discovered along the Nile from Sudan to the Mediterranean, yielding similar tools and food remains.
Further evidence of human habitation of the Nile Valley at the end of the LGM has come from the Kom Ombo Plain (Smith, 1976), which is a rich alluvial plain 50 km north of Aswan. Between 17 and 12 kya this area offered an attractive habitat for humans. Rainfall, having increased at the end of the LGM, was more abundant than now. So not only were the Nile floods more substantial, but also the rainfall in the Red Sea Hills to the east of the river was sufficient to feed the now dried-up tributaries that ran into the Nile across the Kom Ombo Plain. The range of foods was substantial. Animal bones included a now extinct large wild ox, the bubal hartebeest, several species of gazelle and hippopotamus, which appeared to be the principal game eaten. In addition, there were hares, hyenas, a form of dog, bandicoot rats and possibly 'Barbary' sheep. The streams and pools provided Nile catfish, Nile perch, the African barbel, and local species of oyster and soft-shelled turtle. The bones of some 22 forms of birds were also identified. In addition, the food supply would have included roots and bulbs throughout the year, together with seasonal supplies of berries, nuts, and perhaps melons and cucumbers plus edible gums from various trees.
These sites demonstrate that the early inhabitants of the Nile valley and its nearby deserts had learned how to exploit local environments. In the case of the Kom Ombo Plain the area appears to have been abandoned when the climate became much more arid, possibly in association with the onset of the Younger Dryas. Within the Nile Valley changes associated with the climatic fluctuations following the LGM and the early Holocene were complicated. The greatly increased rainfall both in the headwater regions and also along the river that occurred around 14.5 kya (see Fig. 2.11) opened up the White Nile and had the counterintuitive impact of scouring a deep channel along much of the valley in Egypt. This narrow flood-prone region was less attractive to humans than the surrounding hills and wadis. Following the drier interlude associated with the Younger Dryas, the torrents returned, making the valley less hospitable then the surrounding savannah . In some places, a hunting and fishing lifestyle continued along the Nile Valley in Lower Egypt and Nubia, but it would not be until the drier conditions of the mid-Holocene that people returned in large numbers to the valley (see Section 5.15).
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