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Department of Biogeography

Prof. Dr. Carl Beierkuhnlein

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Bachelor Thesis

Methodenentwicklung zur Rekonstruktion des Klimas im Alten Ägypten aufgrund historischer Säugetierdarstellungen

Lena Kopp (11/2015-12/2015)

Support: Carl Beierkuhnlein, David Kienle

After the last glacial maximum ended around 11700 years ago, the following interglacial period named Holocene was struck by a series of climatic changes. First, the monsoon that nowadays is circulating over the Sahel region moved northward turning todays Sahara into a savanna-like landscape. By 5000 BC, the monsoon retrieved from that area again initiating the formation of the largest desert on earth. There are few references about these climatic changes, but in the ancient Egyptian Art there is evidence of big mammals, which were depicted in their natural environment and are regionally or even globally extinct today. At the department of biogeography at the University of Bayreuth a dataset with these illustrations was put together, which specifies the species according their ecological requirements. In that way, they can be used to derive climatic conditions. In order to reconstruct the climate during the pharaonic times between 5000 BC and 0 AD values of several variables of temperature and precipitation were calculated using the conditions of the current ranges of the illustrated mammals. That way, time series were compiled revealing information about the climatic developments. In addition to that, the records of the mammals were weighted due to three different criteria: temporal accuracy of the records, certainty of species-identification and type of artifact. The calculated precipitation alternates between 0 and 60 mm/a and is complying with the contemporary values. Yet, it slightly increases in time, which is in contrast to the processes of desertification that lead to the formation of the Sahara during that time. The precipitation trend is close to the statistical identification threshold, though, and therefore is debatable. The annual mean temperatures correspond with the current data ranging around 24 °C and also show a statistical significant increase of 0,83 °C over time, which is in line with the expected development of temperature during desertification.

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