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    Disentangling late quaternary fluvial and climatic drivers of palaeohydrological change in the Najaf Sea basin, Western Iraq

    Briant, Becky and Jotheri, J. and Al-Ameri, Ismael and Ahmad, A. and Bateman, M. and Engels, Stefan and Garzanti, E. and Nymark, A. and Reynolds, Tim (2024) Disentangling late quaternary fluvial and climatic drivers of palaeohydrological change in the Najaf Sea basin, Western Iraq. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms , ISSN 0197-9337.

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    The water resource provided by lake basins in the western desert of Iraq is important for human occupation of areas outside the Tigris-Euphrates floodplain, both in the past and into the future. This paper presents the first geomorphological and geochronological study of the date of formation of the Najaf Sea and the only such study of any lake basin to the west of Mesopotamia. Geomorphological shoreline features and a palaeochannel linking to the Euphrates were studied and dated using optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and radiocarbon dating. Provenance was determined using heavy mineral analysis. Past environments in the Najaf Sea were reconstructed by molluscan analysis. The earliest OSL ages date from c. 30 000 and 22 000 years ago and seem to predate lake formation. Younger OSL ages date the highest lake level at c. 19 m asl to between 1620–1760 AD (base) to 1906–1974 AD (near sur�face). The radiocarbon ages are affected by a freshwater reservoir effect, but the maximum ages recorded for either of the c. 15 m and c. 17 m asl shorelines are c. 800 cal. BC. This predates the first archaeological sites in the Najaf basin and is similar to maximum ages of c. 850 and c. 1100 cal. BC from the associated pal�aeochannel. This timing does not seem to be linked to a humid climate event. We therefore conclude that the establishment of the Najaf Sea in the Najaf basin occurred as a result of an avulsion event within the Euphrates system that diverted flow to the basin. The trigger for this avulsion event likely related to rapid sediment accumulation and may have been either autogenic or driven by human activity. This study therefore suggests that Najaf Sea formation facilitated human expansion beyond the Tigris- Euphrates floodplain and occurred due to avulsion of the Euphrates.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Historical Studies
    Research Centres and Institutes: Research in Environment and Sustainability, Centre for
    Depositing User: Tim Reynolds
    Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2024 11:29
    Last Modified: 09 May 2024 15:53


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