Were Ancient Sahara Rivers Migration Routes?


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Three river systems that once flowed over 100,000 years ago have been identified in the Sahara Desert of North Africa.  Satellite images from 30 years ago suggested they may be there, buried under the sands of Libya, Algeria and Tunisia. But new research by Dr. Michael Rogerson, a Senior Lecturer in Paleoclimatology at the University of Hull in England, has helped confirm their existence. Climate models from that era, together with the topography of the region, suggest that monsoons produced enough rainfall to form rivers that would have to have flowed south to north.  One of the rivers carried enough water to flow through Libya to the Mediterranean, possibly providing a green corridor for early human migration out of Africa.

Written By: Bob McDonald
continue to source article at cbc.ca


  1. It seems to me I recall reading that the Sahara was more hospitable even in Roman times. Has anyone got a link to the big picture?

  2. It sounds plausible. Even African elephants follow and dig into dry river-beds in the dry season to find water.

    As for south to north routes out of Africa, , the Nile is a good modern example.

  3. This sounds interesting, but (more or less) this idea was included in The Incredible Human Journey with Prof. Alice Roberts on the BBC a few years ago. 2009, I think. She had a computer programme that showed a much more hospitable Sahara 70,000 years ago.

    So I suspect very little new.

  4. In reply to #5 by Lonard:

    Just zoom in with Google Earth. The Sahara is littered with dried-up rivers.

    My work used to take me fairly regularly to Hassi Messaoud in the middle of the Algerian Sahara. Flying over areas of the desert where dunes don’t completely obscure the older land surface you could clearly see intricate networks of river valleys (although often largely infilled with wind-blow sand so that only the tops of the valley sides are now visible).

    On one of my last visits I received a present from the locals I worked with – a piece of silicified wood. I don’t know its exact provenance but I think it was quite local to the Hassi Messaoud area, or at least that’s what I was told (petrified forests are seen in a number of localities around the Sahara and the silicified wood is often collected, cut and polished and up for sale by roadside traders and gift shops in and around the local towns). Clear evidence then of previous forests where now there is only desert.

    The petrified forests pre-date the appearance of humans by some margin, but interestingly the silicified wood was used by Neolithic people to make tools such as arrowheads and spearheads – much like flint (silica) was used elsewhere. These artefacts are commonly scattered around many areas of the desert, providing abundant evidence for human occupation and attesting to a very different climate in the relatively recent past (and are so common that they are nowadays widely available to purchase online – just google Sahara Neolithic arrowheads!). These seem to date to around 5000 years before present when the Sahara went through a particularly wet phase and seems to have been a pleasant place for Neolithic people to hunt for their dinner.

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