Enigmatic Egypt: The Walrus and the Carpenter

The realm of Geological Time has [at least] a couple of confounding countenances.

On the one hand:

Since the end of the Cretaceous Period 66 million years ago the serenely sluggish sea has carved out the Strait of Dover to a depth of 68 metres whilst the crumbling White Cliffs of Dover have somehow endured and acquired a top dressing of a few inches of dirt and grass.

The Strait of Dover or Dover Strait, historically known as the Dover Narrows, is the strait at the narrowest part of the English Channel, marking the boundary between the Channel and North Sea, separating Great Britain from continental Europe.

The submarine depth of the strait varies between 68 m (223 ft) at the Lobourg strait and 20 m (66 ft) at the highest banks.


The White Cliffs of Dover are cliffs that form part of the English coastline facing the Strait of Dover and France.

Around seventy million years ago Great Britain and much of Europe was submerged under a great sea. The sea bottom was made of a white mud formed from fragments of coccoliths, the skeletons of tiny algae which floated in the surface waters of the sea and then sank to the bottom during the Cretaceous period and together with the remains of bottom-living creatures, formed muddy sediments.

Later earth movements related to the formation of the Alps raised these former sea-floor deposits above sea level and until the end of the last glacial period the British Isles were part of continental Europe, linked by the unbroken Weald-Artois Anticline, a ridge that acted as a natural dam holding back a large freshwater pro-glacial lake, now submerged under the North Sea.


The formation of the Alps was a segment of this orogenic process, caused by the collision between the African and the Eurasian plates that began in the late Cretaceous Period.


On the other hand:

Since the Late Messinian Salinity Crisis about 5.5 million years ago the enterprising Egyptian Nile has carved out a 2,400 metre deep valley into gneiss and granite that was then filled with sediment so the Nile could overflow to form Lake Moeris [“abandoned” circa 230 BC].

During the late-Miocene Messinian salinity crisis, when the Mediterranean Sea was a closed basin and evaporated to the point of being empty or nearly so, the Nile cut its course down to the new base level until it was several hundred metres below world ocean level at Aswan and 2,400 m (7,900 ft) below Cairo.

This created a very long and deep canyon which was filled with sediment when the Mediterranean was recreated.

At some point the sediments raised the riverbed sufficiently for the river to overflow westward into a depression to create Lake Moeris.


Lake Moeris is an ancient lake in the northwest of the Faiyum Oasis, 80 km (50 mi) southwest of Cairo, Egypt.

In prehistory, it was a freshwater lake, with an area estimated to vary between 1,270 km² (490 mi²) and 1,700 km² (656 mi²).

It persists today as a smaller saltwater lake called Birket Qarun. The lake’s surface is 43 m (140 ft) below sea-level, and covers about 202 square kilometres (78 sq mi).

In 2300 BC, the waterway from the Nile to the natural lake was widened and deepened to make a canal that now is known as the Bahr Yussef.

The lake was eventually abandoned due to the nearest branch of the Nile shrinking from 230 BC.


The over deepening of this riverbed involved extensive erosion into a crystalline basement of gneiss and granite.

Pliocene and Pleistocene deposits of the Nile valley in Nubia and upper Egypt
Abstracted from Chumakov (1967)


The Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC), also referred to as the Messinian Event, and in its latest stage as the Lago Mare event, was a geological event during which the Mediterranean Sea went into a cycle of partly or nearly complete desiccation throughout the latter part of the Messinian age of the Miocene epoch, from 5.96 to 5.33 Ma (million years ago).


Even devout Gradualist Geologists pause to ponder this Enigmatic Egyptian narrative because the current [average] discharge rate of the Nile roughly equals that of the Rhine.

Nile Discharge – average 2,830 m3s (99,941 cu ft/s)

Rhine Discharge – average 2,900 m3/s (102,413 cu ft/s)

Documenting this Enigmatic Egyptian narrative has been a painstaking task.

In 1900 some of the mysteries of the Miocene were revealed when R Bullen Newton documented shells collected from the raised beaches of the Red Sea.

Although the levels of the Red Sea raised beaches were not methodically documented R Bullen Newton does note some specific elevations at 20, 50, 80, 240 and 380 feet above sea level i.e. 6, 15, 24, 73 and 115 metres above sea level.

The Miocene was an epoch when shell species became extinct and others originated.

The “majority” of specimens collected from the raised beaches were remarkably “well preserved” modern species with many shells retaining their “original colour-markings” for over 5 million years.

An interesting collection of shells, numbering more than fifteen hundred specimens, obtained by the officers of the Geological Survey of Egypt from the raised beach deposits of the Red Sea, has recently been examined by the writer at the request of Captain Lyons, R.E., the Director-General of the Survey.

With the exception of certain specimens collected by Dr. Hume from the western shore of the Gulf of Akaba, this important collection was acquired by Mr. Thomas Barron, F.G.S., from various localities situated on the western side of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez during the survey of that region in the years 1897-1898.

The majority of the shells belong to modern species and are well preserved, many of them retaining their original colour-markings and other characteristic features.

The species exhibit the true Red Sea or Indo-Pacific facies, with a very slight commingling of Mediterranean forms, a fact which confirms the work of most previous observers, who recognize marked differences in the two faunas.

A few of the specimens are quite unknown in present seas, whilst others date their origin from Miocene times, but as all are accompanied by undoubted modern species they must be admitted as their contemporaries in time.

Among such may be mentioned Alectryonia Virleti, Chlamys latissima, Chlamys Reissi, Pecten Vasseli, Lithphaga Avitensis, Cassis lavigata etc.

This association of the modern and extinct forms has already been observed by Professor Mayer-Eymar, Dr. Theodore Fuchs, and others in deposits of similar age near Cairo (Wadi Mellaha, etc.) and to the north of Suez (Bitter Lakes, etc.).

Pleistocene Shells from the Raised Beach Deposits of the Red Sea
R. Bullen Newton – Geological Magazine – 1900


Unsurprisingly, R Bullen Newton concluded the Mediterranean Sea once extended “further southwards” whilst the Red Sea once extended “further northwards”.

The marine portion of the terrace beds surrounding the Bitter Lakes resembles the raised beaches of the Red Sea in possessing a fauna of Indo – Pacific character, whereas the Cairo deposits contain an assemblage of species bearing a large percentage of Mediterranean or Atlantic forms: facts which indicate that in former times the Mediterranean extended further southwards and the Red Sea further northwards than now obtains.

Pleistocene Shells from the Raised Beach Deposits of the Red Sea
R. Bullen Newton – Geological Magazine – 1900



Another intriguing thread has been slowly accumulating for the last 150 years.

Over the years academia has gradually come to realise the dessicated Egyptian landscape is peppered with numerous sites that contain surprisingly large quantities of Petrified Wood.

New Cairo is a city covering an area of about 30,000 hectares (70,000 acres) on the southeastern edge of Cairo Governorate, 25 kilometres (15 mi) from Maadi.

Located in what was formerly Helwan, and located between affluent Maadi and Heliopolis, New Cairo ranges in elevation between 250 and 307 metres (820 and 1,007 ft) above sea level.

Of particular significance to geologists is the Petrified Forest Protected Area, located in the vicinity of New Cairo.




Seventeen sites are said to contain Petrified Wood from the Miocene.

The Miocene of Egypt is rich in petrified wood providing opportunities for reconstructing environments of that time and for investigating changes in vegetation and climate during the Neogene.

To date, 33 species of angiosperm woods (about 47% of the total fossil wood flora of Egypt) have been described from 17 Miocene sites.

Early Miocene Woods of Egypt
Wagieh El-Saadawi, Marwah Kamal-El-Din, Elisabeth A. Wheeler, Rifaat Osman, Marwa El-Faramawi and Zeinab El-Noamani
IAWA Journal 35 (1), 2014: 35–50


Overall, it appears the Petrified Wood specimens from the Miocene either “floated or rolled to their present positions”.

It is in these upper beds, derived from southern sources, that are found the great tree trunks and logs of silicified wood popularly known where abundant as petrified forests.

No tree trunk is found in a position of growth, all having been derived from elsewhere and floated or rolled to their present positions.

Silicification is evidently a later process.

Paleolithic Man and The Nile Valley in Lower Egypt
K. S. Sandford and W. J. Arkell – 1939 – The University of Chicago Press


The mode of occurrence of the fossil trunks (i.e., fragmented trunks and logs) and the absence of other plant remains such as twigs, roots, branches, barks and soft parts indicates that the woods were not preserved in situ but transported from where they grew before silicification.

Early Miocene Woods of Egypt
Wagieh El-Saadawi, Marwah Kamal-El-Din, Elisabeth A. Wheeler, Rifaat Osman, Marwa El-Faramawi and Zeinab El-Noamani
IAWA Journal 35 (1), 2014: 35–50


Determining the origin of the Petrified Wood specimens relies upon subjective speculation.

On the one hand:

The dominant Petrified Wood in several Egyptian Miocene sites is Bombacoxylon owenii and this enables Catastrophists to wonder whether the Petrified Wood originated in India or Pakistan.

Bombacoxylon owenii is not only reported from Egypt, but also from India and Pakistan (Dupéron et al. 1996; Gregory et al. 2009).

Early Miocene Woods of Egypt
Wagieh El-Saadawi, Marwah Kamal-El-Din, Elisabeth A. Wheeler, Rifaat Osman, Marwa El-Faramawi and Zeinab El-Noamani
IAWA Journal 35 (1), 2014: 35–50


On the other hand:

The Petrified Wood specimens enable Gradualists to speculate about the climate during the Miocene at the location where the Petrified Wood is found.

Either way:

There are a couple of very good reasons why both sides should be very eager to establish the origins of the Miocene Petrified Wood specimens of Bombacoxylon owenii found in the North Alpine Foreland Basin in Southern Germany.



Bombacoxylon owenii is probably “exclusively of Old World tropical distribution”.

The present paper is in continuation of the systematic study of silicified woods, collected in Tertiary sediments of Southern Germany, Upper Freshwater Molasse.

The sand and gravel pits in the southeast of Bavaria were proven as particularly abundant in the lower miocene exposure of Rauscheröd close to Passau.

The 3 identified woods belong to the families Bombacaceae, Lauraceae and Meliaceae.

Their comparative species are exclusively of Old World tropical distribution, e.g. mangrove Xylocarpus Koen., growing on the terrestrial margin of “Tidal Forests“.

Silicified Woods (Bombax, Carapa, Cinnamomum) from the
Lower Miocene Gravel-Belt near Ortenburg, East Bavarian Molasse
Alfred Selmeier
Mitteilungen der Bayererischen Staatssammlung fur
Palaontologie und Historische Geologie 39, 219–236 – 1999



German sand and gravel pits contain some amazing Miocene marvels.

The story begins with Ewald Ernst’s report of a Roman aqueduct that was discovered buried under seven metres of sand and gravel in a lignite strip mine outside Cologne, Germany.

See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2017/08/18/the-miocene-mysteries/

Gallery | This entry was posted in Arabian Horizon, Catastrophism, Enigmatic Egypt, Geology, Heinsohn Horizon, History, Uniformitarianism. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Enigmatic Egypt: The Walrus and the Carpenter

  1. The fossil tree logs found in the Jebel Qatrani Formation are exposed by erosion. The JQ Formation could be associated with the Heinsohn Horizon. As these deposits have been massively eroded (see USGS report linked above) I wonder if that happened during the Little Ice Age?

    How well documented is the LIA I wonder, and how much of is monastic muddling?

    Maybe Gunnar should wander a bit more into the chronology forest.

    • malagabay says:

      From my perspective there are more questions than answers 🙂

      • Uniformitarian erosional processes seem to round-off or smooth previous roughly eroded products from massive erosional processes such as plasma arcing. Water per se does not abrade bedrock but flows over bedrock via laminar flow that we now understand to be EZ interface water. So the topography observed today is the sandpapered and polished original formed earlier, and that seems to be from the Little Ice Age event that eroded the JQ stratigraphy.

        Before that is the Heinsohn Horizon Event that formed the paleogeography and deposited the eroded materials +/- volcanic components that comprise the JQ formation etc.. Now we come to an obstacle – is the HHE equivalent to the Tertiary/Pleistocene events, or are the Tertiary and Pleistocene events separate and distinct events caused by the stretching of chronology by the Uniformists?

        Or, more provocatively, was the Pleistocene the Little Ice Age event and the Tertiary the HHE since it is the Tertiary event that elevated the Peruvian Antiplano etc as GH comments elsewhere here. Australian aboriginal history narrates rainbow serpents forming the present day topography and I don’t buy the 1000’s of years story that those stories relate, but to something more far more recent. I am ignoring the Neo-Darwinist prerequisites.

        If this is the case then in England and France etc., there must be Roman ruins under the Pleistocene deposits. No one looks under these deposits because the Pleistocene predates the Roman times by theoretical dictate and not from in situ evidence (hint – Miocene).

  2. Martin Sieff says:

    The oral traditions of the peoples of the Sahara, especially the Tuareg tribes suggests that the great inland sea could have existed up to only a few thousand years ago, certainly into Egyptian earlier dynasties.

    Even the famous legends of the Dogon now in modern Mali indicate they had access to a great inland sea well within their transmitted oral traditions.

    Even in the New Kingdom, there are tomb paintings that indicate abundant flora and fauna in a wide-ranging hinterland whose climate appears to have been as hospitable as that of modern Kenya.

  3. Pingback: Collapsing The Bronze Age Collapse | MalagaBay

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