Environmental impact and natural hazards on Kharga Oasis monumental sites, Western Desert of Egypt
A.B. Salman a,*, F.M. Howari b, M.M. El-Sankary a, A.M. Wali c, M.M. Saleh d
a Nuclear Material Authority, P.O. Box 530, El-Maadi, 11431 Cairo, Egypt
b Environmental Science Program, College of Arts and Science, The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, 4901 East University, Odessa, TX 79762, USA
c Faculty of Science, Department of Geology, Cairo University, Egypt
d Faculty of Archaeology, Department of Conservation, Cairo University, Egypt
a r t i c l e i n f o
Received 19 October 2009
Received in revised form 17 March 2010
Accepted 18 March 2010
Available online 30 March 2010
a b s t r a c t
Kharga Oasis monumental sites are important to the cultural heritage in the South Western Desert of Egypt. These sites are scattered on the floor of the oasis representing ancient civilizations. The studied sites include the Hibis, EI-Nadura, EI-Ghueita and El-Zayyan temples as well as El-Bagawat Cemetery.
The present study found that natural hazards have remarkable impacts on these sites. The impact of weathering processes, encroachment of sand dunes, stability of foundation beds and shallow groundwater seepage were documented. The present study found that humidity, temperature, sunlight and water content conditions seem to be favorable for biodegradation as evidenced by the presence of algae, bat blood and bird excretions. The radioactivity levels at the investigated sites are also measured via gamma-ray spectrometry.
Sand dunes in the area pose a serious natural threat to the monumental sites. Active sand dunes are rapidly encroaching upon the components of these monuments, partially covering some monuments such as El-Ghueita Temple. These dunes load wind storms with fine sand particles. This causes wind erosion through sand blasting of these sites. Some monuments, such as EI-Nadura, EI-Ghueita and El-Zayyan temples were constructed on a suitable hard sandstone ground, whereas others, such as the Hibis Temple, were constructed on unsuitable soft shale ground in relatively topographically low area. The impact of the unstable foundation and shallow groundwater levels have caused severe structural damage as evidenced by tilted columns, cracked walls and salt-crystal growth in the porous building stones. These destructive elements threaten some other temples in Kharga Oasis and will eventually cause total physical collapse. Although rain is rare in this area, it can form a real threat to mud brick monuments such as El-Bagawat Cemetery. The natural radioactivity sources resulted in an annual effective dose equivalent values averaging 0.20, 0.13, 0.09 and 0.07 mSv/year for the monumental sites at Hibis, El-Nadura, El-Ghueita and El-Zayyan, respectively.