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The Nile & Nubia

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1167547.  Wed Jan 06, 2016 11:37 am Reply with quote

While looking up Nubia I saw that “Lower Nubia lay between the First and Second Cataracts of the Nile river, spreading in modern southern Egypt and northern Sudan, while Upper Nubia extended between the Second and Sixth Cataracts, in modern central Sudan.”

I was curious about the use of the term “cataract”: the cataracts of the Nile are shallow lengths (or white water rapids) of the Nile River where the surface of the water is broken by many small boulders and stones jutting out of the river bed, as well as many rocky islets. In some places, these stretches are punctuated by whitewater and are perhaps well characterized as rapids, while at others the water flow is smoother, but still shallow. The word cataract is a Greek word literally meaning "down-rushing," "rapids," "floodgate" or "waterfall” (although none of the Nile's six primary cataracts could be accurately described as waterfalls.)

It turns out this is indeed the same etymology as ocular cataracts, whose wiki page states: "Cataract" is derived from the Latin cataracta, meaning "waterfall", and from the Ancient Greek καταρράκτης (katarrhaktēs), "down-rushing", from καταράσσω (katarassō) meaning "to dash down" (from kata-, "down"; arassein, "to strike, dash"). As rapidly running water turns white, so the term may have been used metaphorically to describe the similar appearance of mature ocular opacities.

So I guess there is some potential for a fun, misleading question in there!

P.S. I also thought it was interesting that Megaliths discovered at Nabta Playa are early examples of what seems to be one of the world's first astronomical devices, predating Stonehenge by almost 2,000 years (so, about 5000BC.) “Careful comparative research indicates that the indigenous inhabitants may have a significantly more advanced knowledge of astronomy and mathematics than previously thought possible... ... By the 5th millennium BC these peoples had fashioned what may be among the world's earliest known archeoastronomical devices. These include alignments of stones that may have indicated the rising of certain stars and a "calendar circle" that indicates the approximate direction of summer solstice sunrise.”

1183703.  Thu Mar 24, 2016 6:11 pm Reply with quote

Some cataracts now lost beneath Lake Nasser due to the Aswan dam.


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