Climate change threatens Egypt’s ancient treasures

Climate change threatens Egypt's ancient treasures

Climate change threatens the ancient treasures of Egypt, population growth is also a key factor in the changes.

Climate change is a change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over a prolonged period of time (decades to millions of years). It may refer to a change in the average weather conditions or in the meteorological temporal variation of the long-term average conditions (for example, more or less extreme weather events). It is caused by factors such as biotic processes, variations in solar radiation received by the Earth, plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions. Some human activities have also been identified as the main cause of recent climate change, often called global warming.

Effects of climate change on Egyptian treasures

In his 40 years as an archeological digger on the western bank of Luxor, Mustafa Al-Nubi has witnessed a wave of changes.

The visits of tourists have shot up, fallen and again they have grown slowly; Local villages have exploded in size and even the landscape has undergone a radical transformation while Egyptologists slowly make their way along the great Necropolis of Thebes. “This is like a big museum now,” says Nubi.

However, none of this compares to the unusual climate that gripped southern Egypt in recent years, he says.

Where once he could work without sweating a drop, now his traditional Galabiya tunic often gets dirty before 10 am. Winter can be cold one day and suffocating the next.

In the midst of periodic downpours at unusual times of the year, Nubi and his colleagues have almost become accustomed to running to cover themselves. “I do not know what’s happening,” he says, “but it was not like that before.”

Millennial treasures tell a similar story. For much of history, the conditions around Luxor were almost calculated to preserve the treasures of Pharaonic riches.

With little rain and humidity, and a desert that enveloped the ancient temples in a protective bubble, there were few climatic concerns.

Furthermore, with a comparatively small local population, in this previously isolated stretch of the Nile there was little reason to suspect that the Ramesseum temple could follow the path of its northern counterparts, crumbling among the dense population. The pharaohs called their huge burial temples the temples of a million years, because they were destined to last forever.

All that, however, is beginning to change. An increasingly erratic time, which many attribute to climate change, is devouring ancient stones. At the same time, the accelerated population growth is complicating preservation efforts.

After surviving thousands of years of wars, invasions and voracity for building materials, the splendors of ancient Egypt could have finally found an opponent to fear. “We are afraid,” says Mostafa Ghaddafi Abdel Rehim, a senior antiquities official in Luxor. “Like everyone else, we are afraid of climate change.”

It all started with the temperature. The vast expanses of Egypt where temples abound have always been suffocating areas during the summer, but never as much as now or for so long, say villagers and archaeologists. Some days of excavation have had to be interrupted, as workers overheat and dehydrate in open sun ditches.

In other cases, changing conditions have even forced archaeologists to alter the way they document the hieroglyphs on the walls. “We used to make blueprints using natural sunlight, but for about 20 years it has been increasingly difficult for us to record the image on paper,” said Ray Johnson, director of the Epigraphic Survey at the University of Chicago, who has been working on Madinet Habu Temple for almost 100 years. “That’s when we realized that (the walls) were getting more and more gray.” In Karnak, the colossal complex of the New and Middle Kingdom, which dominates the northern access to Luxor, the dazzling sun has already stolen color from most of the walls.

Even more worrying is that the high peaks of summer also seem to be leaving their mark on the building blocks.

Around Aswan, several hours by train south of Luxor, temperatures that sometimes exceed 40 ° C are slowly cracking many of the pink granite structures.

The granite expands in the daytime sun and then contracts during the night in the fresh air, explains Johanna Sigl from the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo.

At its excavation site, at the lower end of Elephantine Island, in the middle of the Nile, several inscriptions have almost disappeared as a result, including one in which a senior official records his duty to pick up stones for the pharaoh.

We are still in time to correct our behavior and to curb with government policies the global warming that produces climate change. becoming aware to take care of our home is the motto and that tomorrow our children will find where to live …


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