Sediments and fossil pollen of two short cores from Birket Qarun, Egypt, reflect Nile floods, lake levels, and agricultural developments of the last 325 yr, and demonstrate the potential of a long and detailed record from the Fayum Depression. The chronology of these cores is inferred by correlation of historic events with changes in the fossil and sedimentary records.
Subangular clay clasts and blocky structure resulting from occasional exposure, drying, and reworking of lake sediments reflect low Nile floods of the mid-1600s. Abundant pollen of shallowwater, rooted aquatic plants provides evidence for continued low lake levels through the 1700s. A high lake level, resulting from the extreme Nile flood of 1817–1818, is recorded by hystrichospheres, reworked by wave action, from Eocene marine sediments exposed on the north shore of Birket Qarun.
Political administration, as reflected in agricultural policy, is also recorded in lake history. Changing lake levels are, in part, correlated with canal neglect during Mamluk and Ottoman control, and renewed canal maintenance under the agricultural policy of Mohammed Ali. Increased cattail (Typha) pollen dates from perenial irrigation after 1873. Olive and date pollen, and pollen of newly introduced exotic trees, are abundant after 1930 as a result of accelerated introduction and cultivation of fruit, lumber, fuel, and windbreak trees following World War I. The sequence of introduction of exotic plants is reflected in the pollen of Zea mays, from the New World, followed by Casuarina from Southeast Asia and Australia, and Eucalyptus from Australia.