Holocene climate period during which northern Africa was wetter than today The Sahara was not a desert during the African humid period. Instead, most of northern Africa was covered by grass, trees, and lakes.
The African humid period (AHP, also known as the Neolithic Subpluvial, as well as by other names) is a climate period in Africa during the late Pleistocene and Holocene geologic epochs, when northern Africa was wetter than today. The covering of much of the Sahara desert by grasses, trees and lakes was caused by changes in Earth's orbit around the Sun; changes in vegetation and dust in the Sahara which strengthened the African monsoon; and increased greenhouse gases, which may imply that anthropogenic global warming could result in a shrinkage of the Sahara desert.
During the preceding last glacial maximum, the Sahara contained extensive dune fields and was mostly uninhabited. It was much larger than today, but its lakes and rivers such as Lake Victoria and the White Nile were either dry or at low levels. The humid period began about 14,600–14,500 years ago at the end of Heinrich event 1, simultaneously to the Bølling-Allerød warming. Rivers and lakes such as Lake Chad formed or expanded, glaciers grew on Mount Kilimanjaro and the Sahara retreated. Two major dry fluctuations occurred; during the Younger Dryas and the short 8.2 kiloyear event. The African humid period ended 6,000–5,000 years ago during the Piora Oscillation cold period. While some evidence points to an end 5,500 years ago, in the Sahel, Arabia and East Africa the period appears to have taken place in several steps such as the 4.2 kiloyear event.
The AHP led to a widespread settlement of the Sahara and the Arabian Deserts, and had a profound effect on African cultures, such as the birth of the Pharaonic civilization. They lived as hunter-gatherers until the agricultural revolution and domesticated cattle, goats and sheep. They left archaeological sites and artifacts such as one of the oldest ships in the world, and rock paintings such as those in the Cave of Swimmers and in the Acacus Mountains. Earlier humid periods in Africa were postulated after the discovery of these rock paint... ...read more