This Dried-Out Place Might Be The World’s First Polluted River

Posted: Dec 5 2016, 11:38pm CST | by , Updated: Dec 5 2016, 11:44pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

This Dried-Out Place Might be the World’s First Polluted River
Wadi Faynan, Jordan, where researchers found evidence of ancient pollution caused by the combustion of copper. Credit: University of Waterloo.
 

World's first polluted river was contaminated by Neolithic people 7,000 years ago

Around 7,000 years ago, a river used to flow through Wadi Faynan region of southern Jordan. The river does not exist anymore but researchers believe that it was polluted. And if that’s the case, then it could be the very first polluted river in the world.

Researchers believe that the combustion of copper by Neolithic people likely caused extensive contamination in the river and this has also been reflected by the evidences found at the site. 

“The roots of pyrometallurgy are obscure. This paper explores one possible precursor, in the Faynan Orefield in southern Jordan.  There, at approximately 7000 cal. BP, banks of a near-perennial meandering stream (today represented by complex overbank wetland and anthropogenic deposites) were contaminated repeatedly by copper emitted by human activities.” Authors wrote in the study.

The period, known as the Chalcolithic or Copper Age, is a transitional period between the late Neolithic or Stone Age and the beginning of the Bronze Age. It was the time when humans had started to make tools out of metal instead of stone.

“These populations were experimenting with fire, experimenting with pottery and experimenting with copper ores, and all three of these components are part of the early production of copper metals from ores,” said Professor Russell Adams from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Waterloo. 

“The technological innovation and the spread of the adoption and use of metals in society mark the beginning of the modern world.”

Initially, tools were created by combining charcoal and the blue-green copper and heating them over fire. The process was difficult and time-consuming and for this reason, it took thousands of years before copper tools became common and used at large-scale. 

Gradually, the copper production expanded and led to the large smelting furnaces and factories by about 2600 BC. However, this world’s first industrial revolution came at the expense of health and environment. Slag, the waste product of smelting, was absorbed by plants. When people and animals consumed those plants, the contaminants accumulated in the environment. 

The pollution caused by thousands of years of copper mining also led to the widespread health problems in ancient people like infertility, malformations and premature death.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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