Title

Paleohydrology and Paleoenvironments at Bir Sahara: Pleistocene Lithostratigraphy and Sedimentology in the Southern Egyptian Sahara

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-2017

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jafrearsci.2017.02.031

Abstract

The Bir Sahara area contains a remarkable record of Middle and Late Pleistocene hydrologic and environmental conditions for Saharan North Africa, based on lithostratigraphic and sedimentologic evidence from basin-fill deposits. Some of the deposits contain Lower Paleolithic (Acheulean) or Middle Paleolithic artifacts that help to constrain their age, since Acheulian artifacts are assigned to the Middle Pleistocene, while Middle Paleolithic artifacts are limited to either the Middle or Late Pleistocene. Locality BS-14 is in the southern part of Bir Sahara, while localities E-88-15, E-88-2, BS-13, and BS-16 are situated in the south-central part of the deflational basin, closer to the present-day water-hole. Lowered groundwater conditions during arid intervals resulted in erosional topographic basins. These deflational basins were later filled with sediments associated with wetter hydrologic conditions. The oldest studied sedimentary sequence in the Bir Sahara depression (BS-14) contains in situ Acheulian artifacts. Acheulian handaxes are found in sands underlying carbonates that are interpreted as evidence of spring-fed pond and marsh environments during a Middle Pleistocene wet interval. At the E-88-15 locality, the stratigraphic sequence documents deposition in a possible perennial pond or small lake that varied in extent and depth and is associated with Middle Paleolithic artifacts. At E-88-12 and BS-13, lateral and vertical variations in the lithofacies of the basin-fill sediments provide additional records of changing hydrologic conditions during the Late Pleistocene. These hydrologic conditions appear to reflect variations in water-table levels related to groundwater recharge and, at times, local rains.

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