Geological Oddity: 100,000 Years Ago The Sahara Was Awash With Mighty Rivers


The world’s most famous desert wasn’t always quite so dry as it is now. 100,000 years ago, the Sahara was awash with rivers that might well have led humanity’s ancestors to the Mediterranean.

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Map of Saharan Rivers 100,000 years ago. Photo: PLOS article

Thanks to the Earth shifting on its axis, the Sahara’s climate gets gradually greener over tens of thousands of years. But you’d have to go back a long ways to find real, perennial rivers flowing through the Sahara outside of the Nile.

Rivers in the Sahara

Based on computer simulations, an international research team suggests the presence of massive river systems in the Sahara between 130,000 and 100,000 years ago. These rivers would have created narrow stretches of nutrient-rich soil, producing “green corridors” that would have allowed animals and plants to prosper in the otherwise inhospitable desert much like the Nile in Egypt. Finally, the simulations suggest that an estimated 27,000 square miles in northeastern Libya was covered by massive lagoons and wetlands.

Implications for the human migration out of Africa

The presence of these ancient rivers is well-supported by the reality of ancient human migration out of Africa, which would have required our forebears to cross the treacherous Sahara. These rivers would have provided a lifeline that would have allowed humans to make the journey. Indeed, the westernmost of these predicted rivers, the Irharhar, would have been a particularly appealing natural path to the Mediterranean, as it flowed south to north from the monsoon-washed mountainous regions to the more temperate north African coast. (SOURCE)

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