Earliest cereal cultivation in Egypt recorded in the Faiyum Oasis lake deposits and its palaeoclimatic context

Fabian Welc, Leszek Marks, Krystyna Milecka


We determine the beginning of the Neolithic farming in northern Egypt, based on analysis of core FA-1 of lake deposits in the Faiyum Oasis in northern Egypt. Regular lamination of the early Middle Holocene lake deposits, supported by radiocarbon dating and pollen analysis, indicates the earliest occurrence of domesticated cereals at ~7.8 cal ka BP in this region. The appearance of cereals in the Faiyum region was possible due to fundamental restructuring of regional climatic conditions caused by the changing atmospheric circulation in the eastern Mediterranean region. Stronger northwestern winds were accompanied by increased precipitation in winter and enabled 3 farming phases in the Faiyum Oasis at 7.8–7.6, 7.4–7.2 and 7.0–6.8 cal ka BP, separated by arid episodes with predominant southern winds. Most probably, cereal cultivation concentrated inside local wadis to the north of the lake and was rainfall-dependent. Therefore, early Egyptian farming did not develop based on irrigation systems as commonly thought, but was rain-fed, this being possible due to marked climate change at the beginning of the Middle Holocene.  


Neolithic; Egypt; Qarun Lake; early cereal cultivation; climate change; Middle Holocene

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