Abstract

This paper reconstructs drainage systems with outlets close to the present-day Nile system, honouring both onshore and offshore evidence and attempts a source to sink quantification. A large river is evidenced to have extended the length of the Red Sea Hills from Eritrea to the current outlet since the Oligocene. The early route of the river is uncertain through Sudan but a more westerly course is proposed through Egypt. The largest contributor of clastic sediment was the Red Sea Hills, where average erosion of the order of 1200–1500 m is constrained by a combination of Apatite Fission Track Analysis, planation surface analysis, and Red Sea sink volumes. Nubia was a significant supplier of sand-rich sediment during wet periods. This sediment supply pattern contrasts with the present-day situation where the Ethiopian Highlands contribute the vast majority of sediments, this contrast being validated by available mineralogical data. This is a consequence of wetter climates in the past and of the younger Ethiopian topography. The interpretations presented here illustrate the importance of hinterland climate change on clastic supply and allow the reservoir fairways in the Nile Cone to be more precisely mapped out in time and space.

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