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Ancient mega-lake identified in Egyptian desert

Apparently the deserts of western Egypt were once home to a large mega-lake fed by the Nile River’s earliest annual floods.

Fossil fish and space shuttle radar images have defined the bed and drainage channels of the long lost lake, which at times was larger than Lake Michigan, stretching as far as 250 miles west of the Nile in southwestern Egypt.

The discovery pushes back the origin of the “Gift of the Nile” floods to more than a quarter million years ago and paints a drastically different picture of Egypt’s environment than is seen today. It also explains the longstanding puzzle of the fossilized fish found in the desert — fish that are of the same kinds that live in today’s Nile River.

It took a lot of staring at the high-resolution radar topographic maps from the 1980s and 1990s — and tinkering with the colors of those maps — to make sense of it all.

“It just struck me that: ‘Hey, maybe that was the level for the lake,'” said Ted Maxwell of the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies.

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