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8 June 2011
Egyptian Neolithic site 'virtually untouched'

Only 70km from Cairo, Egypt - in a nature reserve along the shore north of Lake Qarun - lies a virtually untouched Neolithic site which holds the country's oldest evidence of agriculture, and could yield vital clues to the rise of Pharaonic civilisation. The site holds a wealth of prehistoric remains from the middle-Mesolithic period 200,000 years ago to the Pharaonic period, and later.
     Archaeologists say the remains of rain-based Neolithic farming in the reserve may hold vital clues to a technological leap that led to irrigation-based farming along the Nile. Shortly after the Neolithic period, irrigation began spreading along the Nile Valley.
     The area also contains Pharaonic basalt quarries from the Old Kingdom, and fossils of whales - including one belonging to an entirely new species that swam in the region's waters 42 million years ago. "The excavations are not finished," says Zahi Hawass, head of the Supreme Council for Antiquities.

Edited from Iol.co.za (6 June 2011)

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