Geochronology of Wadi Tushka: Lost Tributary of the Nile

Science  03 Oct 1980:
Vol. 210, Issue 4465, pp. 68-71
DOI: 10.1126/science.210.4465.68


The Sadat Canal, now under construction, is designed to drain excess water from Lake Nasser to the Western Desert by way of Wadi Tushka, a sand-filled, dry-wash tributary of the Nile 34 kilometers north of Abu Simbel. Core-drilling logs made by the Aswan High Dam Authority prior to excavation of the Sadat Canal and along 48 kilometers of its axis reveal as much as 33 meters of unconsolidated sand and gravel over Mesozoic bedrock and under surficial dune sand and playa muds of Holocene age. Excavation of the canal revealed Acheulean artifacts 6.7 meters below the surface in fluvial sediments capped by a buried, red calcic paleosol. These data are interpreted as evidence for the existence of a major tributary of the Nile during the late middle Pleistocene. The tributary drained the Kiseiba-Dungul Depression and possibly the Kharga Depression as well. Chalcedony-armored mudstones in the depressions are believed to be saline lake deposits possibly related to a lake that drained to the Nile by way of Wadi Tushka, thus entrenching the divide between the depression and the valley. Gross correlations with Pleistocene deposits of the Nile Valley and the Kharga Depression are based upon archeological evidence only until more precise geochronology can be applied to the problem.