Fayoum and continues through the Fayoum, to emerge at Bani Suwayf. The province of Fayoum is the largest and westernmost of the several oases, scattered acrogss the Western Desert.
lt differs from all the others in being fed directly by an offshoot of the Nile, which leaves the main river at Manqabad just N of Asyiit. The depression, surrounded by low mountains, is roughly triangular,
c 100km NE to SW and c 90km across the S base. Only the area at the N apex is Cultivable, about one»third of the total area.
This is watered by extensive canalisation of the river,
the Bahr Yusuf,
which enters the depression through a break in the surrounding hills at al-Lahun in the SE.
These canals finally drain into the Birkat Qarun, a large lake, about 401-:rn long and only Bkm across at its widest point and about 45m below sea level, which lies NW of the cultivated region.
The chief town and aclministrative capital, Madinat al-Fayyum, is roughly in the centre of the cultivated area and roads, radiate in all directions to the many other towns and villages throughout the region.
The average temperature in January is 14.9°C and in July 29.5°C. Annual rainfall is 18.7mm.Fayoum
Geology. The geological history of the Fayoum has been studied in some detail, as the measures of the Cabal Qatrani and Qasr Qarun 20km to the NW of Birkat al-Qarun produce a whole sequence of Early Tertiary strata from the late Eocene to late Oligocene.
These show the development of the area from purely marine through brackish marshland to high forest and savannah.
The lowest late Eocene strata are marine deposits with abundant remains of sharks and early whales, but the latest Eocene shows a brackish coastal marshland with whales and sea-cows among the marine types, and giant tortoises and crocodiles representing the land forms.
Of particular note are fossils of Gigantophis, a 12m python, and, most important of_all, Moeritherium, the elongated primitive elephantid, whose dynasty was to produce such gigantic forms in later geological ages.
The early Oligocene deposits show that the Fayoum was well V inland and covered with lush tropical forest.
The relations oi Moerilherium were Palaeomastodon and Phioma, much larger with longer tusks and closer to modem forms. _ Other relatives of the elephants were very common.
Now represented by small rabbit-sized animals,
the hyraxes produced giant forms- Megalohyrax was as large as a pony.
Yet another relative was Arsinotherium, 2m at the shoulder and armed with immense bone horns projecting forward from the nose, and possessing a battery of grinding teeth. Among smaller mammals were little tarsier-like primates.
By the middle Oligocene the forest had given way to savannah, the most important fossil found being Propliopithecus, an early ape, which showed several hominid traits.
The late Oligocene beds indicate a return oi the lush forests and the associated fauna.
Elephantids were even more advanced and another simian was present, Aegyptopithecus, which as a forest animal had more in common with the modem gorilla.
The whole sequence is terminated abruptly by a basaltic lava flow signalling the end of the Oligocene and presumably the local extinction of the fauna.
Fossils of all these forms can be seen in the Geological Museum in Cairo.
There is evidence of settlement in the Fayoum from Neolithic times onward but its isolation and difficulty of access prevented exploitation. Two of the early cultures, called Fayoum A and B, are dated to 4500 BC. They were discovered after World War l in the terrace overlooking Lake Qarun. lt was not until dynastic times under Amenernhat I of the 12 Dyn.
that the region called Ta-she (Land ol the Lake) was developed and the marshes drained. This was primarily achieved by the installation of a regulator at al~Lahun~the first of a series that has continued until the present day.
This development was accelerated under Amenernhat Ill, who showed great interest in the area and had his pyramid built at ljlawérah.
At this time it was known as the Twentieth Nome.
Thus it continued throughout the period until the reign of Ptolemy Il Philadelphus when it was developed further.
It was called the Arsinoite Nome and renowned for its rich and varied crops and the wildfowl and fish from Mer-Wer
(The Great Lalce, Lake Moens)
which then covered perhaps twice its present area.
Much information is available for this period since Apollonius, the treasurer of Ptolemy, had estates here and introduced new methods of cultivation, drainage and rotation of crops among other improvements.
During the 3C BC a large settlement of Jews resided in the area.
Under the Romans the agricultural policy of the Ptolemies was abandoned and the whole area was used.