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Herding then farming in the Nile Delta

Zhao, Xiaoshuang; Liu, Yan; Thomas, Ian; Salem, Alaa; Wang, Yanna; Alassal, Said E.; Jiang, Feng; Sun, Qianli; Chen, Jing; Finlayson, Brian; Wilson, Penelope; Chen, Zhongyuan

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Xiaoshuang Zhao

Yan Liu

Ian Thomas

Alaa Salem

Yanna Wang

Said E. Alassal

Feng Jiang

Qianli Sun

Jing Chen

Brian Finlayson

Zhongyuan Chen


The Nile Delta in Egypt represents a valuable location to study the history of human societal development and agricultural advancement. However, the livelihood patterns of the earliest settlers – whether they were farmers or herders – remains poorly understood. Here we use non-pollen palynomorphs and pollen grains from a sediment core taken at Sais, one of the earliest archaeological sites in the west-central Nile Delta, to investigate the livelihood patterns and transition of early settlers there. We find that animal microfossils (dung and hair) occur in substantial quantities from around 7,000 years ago in our high-resolution-dated non-pollen palynomorphs spectrum, while domesticated cereals emerge in the spectrum around 300 years later. We also identify evidence of fire-enhanced land exploitation after this time. We interpret our microfossil evidence to indicate that the earliest settlers in the Nile Delta were herders and that this then developed into a combination of herding and farming.


Zhao, X., Liu, Y., Thomas, I., Salem, A., Wang, Y., Alassal, S. E., …Chen, Z. (2022). Herding then farming in the Nile Delta. Communications Earth & Environment, 3(1),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 17, 2022
Online Publication Date Apr 7, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Jul 5, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jul 5, 2022
Journal Nature Communications
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Issue 1


Published Journal Article (2.3 Mb)

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