Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (11.67 MB)

The A.R.I.D. hypothesis - a river in 'drought': environmental and cultural ramifications of Old Kingdom climate change

Download (11.67 MB)
posted on 2022-03-28, 18:31 authored by John William Burn
During the latter half of the Old Kingdom, Egypt experienced a noticeable decline in the amount of water being delivered by the River Nile. This thesis contends that the way the society responded to this change can be inferred from the tombs' decorations produced during the timeframe in question. Without a regular inundation, nutrients normally lost to the river remained within it. These nutrients changed the ecological balance affecting the local environment. Since less water and less nutrients were available for the land, there was a decline in cultivation, and the development of garden and orchards ceased. Plant life within the river increased, taking advantage of the excess nutrient supply. Fish numbers and varieties increased with new fishing techniques and technologies appearing as tomb decorations. Depictions of water birds increased, presumably as a result of an increasing reliance upon fowl in the daily diet. Cattle depictions also increased as cattle were able to take advantage of the flourishing plants on the riverbanks. Finally, as the ecotone (the boundary between ecosystems) diminished, desert animals ventured closer to the river, integrating themselves with the cattle populations and becoming an increasing part of the animal procession scenes. In conclusion, contrasting to the currently accepted viewpoint of the First Intermediate Period as a time of relapse and retrogression, the artistic narrative produced suggests a responsive, robust and resilient society -- abstract.


Table of Contents

Foreword and introductory remarks -- Chapter 1. Climate and society in the Old Kingdom -- Chapter 2. Art, society and the environment -- Chapter 3. The ecology of rivers -- Chapter 4. The A.R.I.D hypothesis - a river in drought -- Chapter 5. Changes in tomb wall scenes -- Chapter 6. Cultivation's decline and a river in drought -- Chapter 7. Fishing and a river in drought -- Chapter 8. Waterfowl and a river in drought -- Chapter 9. The rise of cattle and a river in drought -- Chapter 10. The desert and a river in drought -- Chapter 11. Art imitating life? Niuserra to the first intermediate period -- Chapter 12. The A.R.I.D. project - extending the investigation -- Chapter 13. Final conclusion - resilience not regression -- Bibliography.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 323-376

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Arts

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Naguib Kanawati

Additional Supervisor 1

Linda Evans


Copyright John William Burn 2020. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (376 pages): illustrations

Former Identifiers


Usage metrics

    Macquarie University Theses


    Ref. manager