Squeezing the Lost Grand Canyon of Egypt into the Young Earth Paradigm: An impossible* Task

In Egypt the Nile River Valley conceals a massive canyon that once was as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  We have explored the origins of this lost canyon in the previous posts.   We found that geologists attribute the origins of this massive canyon to the great drying up of the Mediterranean Sea, which has been called the Messinian Salinity Crises and took place over five million years ago.  Further studies reveal that it took over one million years for subsequent 800-mile-long Nile Valley canyon lake to be filled with sediments via inputs from the Nile River.   Lastly, we noted that it is likely that the Nile Valley achieved its present-day appearance more than one million years ago though the Nile River has experienced many changes in volume over that time.

These time intervals are unacceptable to young earth creationists (YECs) who confine all the geological features of the Earth to no more than 4500 years of age.   So how can the YEC explain the observed massive canyon buried below the Nile River?

Could the Nile Valley have been part of God’s original creation according to YECs and the buried canyon simply be attributed to a feature made with the appearance of age?  Every YEC I know would say, No! This is because they believe Noah’s Flood 4350 years ago would have obliterated any river that existed prior to that time. Furthermore, the canyon cuts through layers of fossiliferous rock.  That is rock which YECs insist could not have existed as part of the original “good” creation since fossils are evidence of existence of death.   Therefore they are compelled by their most basic assumptions about the history of the Earth to propose that the Nile River Valley and the canyon that is buried beneath it are at most 4350 years old having been either formed during the year of the Flood or soon afterwards.

Past entries of the Lost Grand Canyon of Egypt series: 

How can the young-earth hypothesis accommodate the evidence of this historical canyon? Before we attempt to answer that question there is some more evidence that puts constraints on that young-earth explanation that we must explore.

All historical records suggest the Nile Valley appears as it does today

We might first ask, how long has the Nile Valley appeared as it does today?  I think we can say with great confidence that it has changed very little in its appearance throughout recorded human history.  The Egyptians have lived along its banks—ie. on top of the buried canyon—for thousands of years. There are archaeological sites scattered throughout the Nile Valley that predate the Egyptians.  Sites with stone tools are common in sediments below those that are of certain Egyptian origin.  Even in the stories of their own history, Egyptians have believed the Nile Valley has always existed.  There are no eye-witness historical accounts that suggests the Nile Valley has appeared any different from today beyond the changing pattern of the meandering river. At a minimum, we can conclude that Nile Valley has been full of sediments with a Nile River meandering through it for all of recorded human history.

Young earth creationists such as Ken Ham, have proposed, based on their interpretation of the Genesis account, a chronology of human dispersal in which Noah and his family disembarked from an Ark 4350 years ago.   About 100 years later all humanity gathered at the city of Babel, presumably near the Euphrates River, to construct a great tower.  But God created confusion among the people causing them to scatter across the Earth.  This dispersal then represents the oldest date – 4250 years ago – for any people group living anywhere in the world (eg. Native Americans, Tasmanians, Chinese etc. cannot be any older than this date).   In this proposed narrative,  a few individuals  migrated from Babel to the Nile Valley and established the Egyptian civilization.

This chronology is in stark contrast with all Egyptian scholars who place the origins of the Egyptian civilization at least a 1000 years older than the YEC timeline will allow.  And this does not include the evidence of nomadic people living in Egypt well before the Egyptians (see: Billions of Stone Artifacts:  Witness to the Ancient Occupation of the Saharan Desert).

The Biblical record of the Nile River

What can we learn from the Bible about the history of the Nile River?  We know that Abraham, during a time of famine in the region of Palestine, traveled to Egypt to save his family. There he came to the Nile Valley and found a thriving civilization ruled by a Pharaoh.  So we can be certain that the Nile Valley canyon was completely filled with sediments 200 years after Noah’s flood according to the YEC timeline.  Furthermore, for the Egyptian civilization to have become well-established prior to Abraham’s arrival would have required many generations to have passed.  In the YEC timeline this is impossible since the Egyptians civilization could only have developed after the dispersal from Babel which, according to their timeline, occurred not more than 50 years before Abraham’s birth.  Regardless, there is no doubt that the great Nile Canyon was no where to be seen by those that first migrated to the region.

This whimsical cartoon, first published in The Atlantic Monthly and mixing modern promenaders at the Rock of Gibraltar with an event that happened 5.33 million years ago, depicts the catastrophic flood that ended the Messinian salinity crisis when Atlantic waters re-entered the Mediterranean. Drawing by Guy Billout
This Guy Billout cartoon, first published in The Atlantic Monthly shows the scene at the Rock of Gibraltar 5.33 million years ago. It depicts the catastrophic flood that ended the Messinian salinity crisis when Atlantic waters re-entered the Mediterranean.

Did the Nile Valley canyon form during the Flood? 

We have already established that the Nile Valley canyon is an incision made deep into fossil bearing sedimentary rock and granite. YEC insist that the Noah’s Flood created all fossil-bearing sedimentary rocks.  But if the rock that the canyon is eroded out of what was formed during the Flood how could the Flood, which covered the whole Earth, erode a massive canyon at the same time?

The incision deep into granite and well below sea level would be impossible—baring miraculous intervention—to produce while under water.  And it would fail to explain the massive salt deposits that lie below the Mediterranean Sea (see: The Lost Grand Canyon of Egypt, Part II: Origins of the Nile River Valley.  Furthermore, the sedimentary rock that has filled the canyon today has the composition of sedimentary rock that would form in a standing lake not a choatic global Flood.  What’s more, analyses of sediments from the Nile delta reveal that the source of the sediment in the delta has changed over time as the sources of water to the Nile have changed due to climatic and geological changes to northern Africa.  How could a global flood fill a canyon with sediments that can be uniquely identified as being derived from specific post-flood geographic regions if they were all deposited in a singular flood event?  A Flood model of the Nile canyon formation makes no sense because is not supported by any known observations.

A YEC approach to the Nile Valley canyon?

So what is the YEC explanation for the buried Grand Canyon of the Nile?  I am not certain. Why? Because even a brief mention of the Messinian Salinity Crisis is exceedingly rare in the YEC literature and the Nile Valley canyon has never been acknowledged— that I can find—despite being a well-known geological formation.

One YEC, Michael Oard, suggested in an article from 2005 that evidence for the Mediterranean Sea drying up is not compelling. He proposed that the massive salt deposits—which he does admit exist—below the Mediterranean Sea must be Flood deposits.

One would not expect true evaporites to form in the Flood, but the idea of precipitating the chemicals out is likely. The details of the formation of such huge precipitites need work. Creationists need a major research project, not only on the Messinian precipitites, but also on many of the other monstrous precipitites in the sedimentary rocks. Since the scale of the deposits is so large, it seems unthinkable that the precipitites could be post-Flood.

Unfortunately, Oard’s call for a major creationist’ research project to understand the Messinian salts deposits has been ignored by the creationist’ community.  Oard recognizes that there is not enough time for all those salt deposits to form by evaporation after the Flood and so once again he is forced to force the origin of another geological formation into the Flood year.  I have shown before this simply doesn’t work in a similar location where thousands of feet of salts lie underneath the Dead Sea (Origins of the Dead Sea: All Dried Up – No room for a Dry Dead Sea in the Young Earth Paradigm).

More problematic, Oard never takes the Nile Canyon into account when he considers the Messianian salt deposits.  If Oard is right that the Mediterranean Sea never dried up he has a new problem that YECs must consider.  How can a canyon that empties into the Mediterranean basin and reaches over 6000 feet below sea level form below sea level?  And to up the ante, why are there buried canyons underneath other major rivers that pour enter the Mediterranean Sea in addition to the Nile canyon? Why is the Mediterranean Sea rimmed with gypsum and salt deposits when other oceans are not?   These observations are not addressed by Oard nor anywhere else in the YEC literature that I am aware of.

Comparing the Grand Canyon of Arizona with the Lost Grand Canyon of the Nile Valley

The Grand Canyon in Arizona provides irreconcilable problems for the young earth paradigm (The Grand Canyon: Magnificent Witness to Earth’s History).   YECs have spent considerable effort trying to explain how the Grand Canyon could have been created within a very short period of time.  All of those efforts focus on providing naturalistic mechanisms operating in the post-Flood world.  They say that a huge lake above the current Grand Canyon experiences a catastrophic breach causing the erosion of the Grand Canyon in a matter of days or weeks.  In contrast to this attempt to place the carving of the Grand Canyon into a post-Flood chronological position, YECs cannot use the same post-flood explanations for the origins of the Grand Canyon of the Nile Valley.  Rather it seems they will be forced to place the formation of the canyon into the short history of the Flood itself despite the obvious difficulties that will cause.

The Nile Valley poses a post-Flood Ice Age problem

The Nile Valley’s buried canyon isn’t the only problem for the YEC view of biblical chronology.  Their own speculations about a “biblical” Ice Age, which they believe occurred 4000 years ago, cause additional problems.   In the YEC timeline a singular Ice Age occurred soon after the global flood reaching its maximum stages soon after the tower of Babel event.

If this really happened, what would the Nile River have looked like at the time the first Egyptians were taking up residence along the Nile just after Babel?  It would not have looked like it does today!  The YEC timeline requires massive ice loss in a just a few hundred years.  They also propose the Saharah was green at this time and thus far more water was available to the Nile River.  As a result the Nile River would have been a raging torrent during this time. There would hardly have been the regular cycles of high and lower water that the Egyptians relied on for centuries to build their civilization.

Studies of the Nile River delta have show that there are massive sediments buried there that are associated with Ice Age melting in the Africa highlands but those sediments were laid down before human habitation of the Nile Valley occurred. This contradicts the YEC prediction.  YECs believe Abraham lived in the waning years of the Ice Age and thus when he would have arrived at the Nile River at a time when it was a rushing torrent and no one could live in the Nile Valley but rather would have been restricted to the desert above the valley floor. This contrasts with the description that we find in the Bible. Nothing in the scriptures suggests that the Nile Valley was any different from today.  Ironically the eye-witness testimony of the scriptures is something that YECs appear to avoid using to test their own theories.

How should we understand the history of the Nile Valley and Biblical Chronology?

I believe the simplest and most consistent answer is that Abraham came to the edge of the Nile Valley and was met with the scene that looks much as it does today. I have no problem with the theory that the Messinian Salinity Crisis is the physical causative agent of the origin of the Nile River.  I would say that God is the first cause and the processes of evaporation and erosion are His means of creation.  As such those means are the ones we can study and describe.

Long before Abraham, Noah or even Adam and Eve walked on this Earth, the Nile Valley canyon was formed and then filled with sediments.  The first people to set up camp on its shores saw a Nile River just as we see it today. All of the events recorded in the scriptures take place after the Nile River came to be as we see it today.  Genesis 1 tell us about in broad brush fashion that God formed the heavens in the Earth but then the text turns its attention to the story of Man and is not concerned about the specifics of how old particular geological formation are or how they were formed.   There is no need to find a place in human history for this lost Grand Canyon.

The Nile Canyon isn’t a problem to be solved but it is something to be explored as a part of God’s creation.


*An “impossible” task?  By this I mean that without invoking multiple miracles and numerous ad-hoc unparsimonious the evidence of a canyon below the Nile River Valley precludes the young-earth view.

Bibliography for the four part series on the Lost Grand Canyon of Egypt:

Calculation of total sediments in Nile Valley canyon:   Rushdi Said, “The Geological evolution of the River Nile,” in Fred Wendorf and Anthony E. Marks, Editors “Problems in Prehistory: North Africa and the Levant,” (Dallas: Southern Methodist University, 1975), pp 7-44, p. 15)

Abdelkareem, Mohamed, and Farouk El-Baz. “Remote sensing of paleodrainage systems west of the Nile River, Egypt.” Geocarto International(2016): 1-15.

Abdelkareem, Mohamed, Eman Ghoneim, Farouk El-Baz, and Mohamed Askalany. “New insight on paleoriver development in the Nile basin of the eastern Sahara.” Journal of African Earth Sciences 62, no. 1 (2012): 35-40.

Castañeda, Isla S., Stefan Schouten, Jürgen Pätzold, Friedrich Lucassen, Simone Kasemann, Holger Kuhlmann, and Enno Schefuß. “Hydroclimate variability in the Nile River Basin during the past 28,000 years.” Earth and Planetary Science Letters 438 (2016): 47-56.

Duggen, Svend, Kaj Hoernle, Paul Van Den Bogaard, Lars Rüpke, and Jason Phipps Morgan. “Deep roots of the Messinian salinity crisis.” Nature 422, no. 6932 (2003): 602-606.

Fauquette, Séverine, Jean-Pierre Suc, Adele Bertini, Speranta-Maria Popescu, Sophie Warny, Naïma Bachiri Taoufiq, Maria-Jesus Perez Villa et al. “How much did climate force the Messinian salinity crisis? Quantified climatic conditions from pollen records in the Mediterranean region.”Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 238, no. 1 (2006): 281-301.

Garcia-Castellanos, Daniel, Ferran Estrada, Ivone Jiménez-Munt, Christian Gorini, Manel Fernández, Jaume Vergés, and R. De Vicente. “Catastrophic flood of the Mediterranean after the Messinian salinity crisis.” Nature 462, no. 7274 (2009): 778-781.

Hsü, Kenneth J., Lucien Montadert, Daniel Bernoulli, Maria Bianca Cita, Albert Erickson, Robert E. Garrison, Robert B. Kidd, Frederic Mèlierés, Carla Müller, and Ramil Wright. “History of the Med Hsü, K. J., W. B. F. Ryan, and M. B. Cita. “Late Miocene desiccation of the Mediterranean.” Nature 242, no. 5395 (1973): 240-244.

ISSAWI, Bahay. “PALEOHISTORY OF THE NILE RIVER.” In 2002 Denver Annual Meeting. 2002.

Judd, John W. “Report on a series of specimens of the deposits of the Nile Delta, obtained by the recent boring operations.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 39, no. 239-241 (1885): 213-227.

Koopman, Annelies, Sjoerd Kluiving, Simon Holdaway, and Willeke Wendrich. “The effects of Holocene landscape changes on the formation of the archaeological record in the Fayum Basin, Egypt.” Geoarchaeology 31, no. 1 (2016): 17-33.

Krijgsman, W., F. J. Hilgen, I. Raffi, F. J. Sierro, and D. S. Wilson. “Chronology, causes and progression of the Messinian salinity crisis.”Nature 400, no. 6745 (1999): 652-655.

Müller, Daniel W., and Paul A. Mueller. “Origin and age of the Mediterranean Messinian evaporites: implications from Sr isotopes.” Earth and Planetary Science Letters 107, no. 1 (1991): 1-12.

Nesteroff, W. D., and France VI. “21. MINERALOGY, PETROGRAPHY, DISTRIBUTION, AND ORIGIN OF THE MESSINIAN MEDITERRANEAN EVAPORITES.” Initial Reports of the Deep Sea Drilling Project: A Project Planned by and Carried Out with the Advice of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling 13 (1973): 673.

Revel, Marie, E. Ducassou, C. Skonieczny, C. Colin, L. Bastian, D. Bosch, S. Migeon, and J. Mascle. “20,000 years of Nile River dynamics and environmental changes in the Nile catchment area as inferred from Nile upper continental slope sediments.” Quaternary Science Reviews 130 (2015): 200-221.

Rouchy, Jean Marie, and Antonio Caruso. “The Messinian salinity crisis in the Mediterranean basin: a reassessment of the data and an integrated scenario.” Sedimentary Geology 188 (2006): 35-67.

Rzóska, Julian. “The Geological Evolution of the River Nile in Egypt.” In The Nile, Biology of an Ancient River, pp. 2-4. Springer Netherlands, 1976.

Said, Rushdi. The geological evolution of the River Nile. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.

Srikantia, S. V. “Geological Evolution of the Mediterranean Basin.”Geological Society of India 31, no. 1 (1988): 176-177.

Woodward, Jamie, Mark Macklin, Laura Fielding, Ian Millar, Neal Spencer, Derek Welsby, and Martin Williams. “Shifting sediment sources in the world’s longest river: a strontium isotope record for the Holocene Nile.” Quaternary Science Reviews 130 (2015): 124-140.

Woodward, J. C., M. A. J. Williams, E. Garzanti, M. G. Macklin, and N. Marriner. “From source to sink: Exploring the Quaternary history of the Nile.”Quaternary Science Reviews 130 (2015): 3-8.

Woodward, Jamie C., Mark G. Macklin, Michael D. Krom, and Martin AJ Williams. “The Nile: evolution, Quaternary river environments and material fluxes.” Large rivers: geomorphology and management 13 (2007): 712.

Cover Image (below) is Yellowstone Falls in Wyoming. I took this picture on our recent trip to Yellowstone National Park (June 2016).

Yellowstone Falls in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Photo: Joel Duff, June 2016.
Yellowstone Falls in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Photo: Joel Duff, June 2016.

20 thoughts on “Squeezing the Lost Grand Canyon of Egypt into the Young Earth Paradigm: An impossible* Task

  1. I really enjoyed this series. I’m surprised there haven’t been more comments on it. If any of the YEC organizations ever deign to comment on this issue, I’d be interested to see what they say.


    1. I recently read the new book “THE GRAND CANYON MONUMENT TO AN ANCIENT EARTH” the geological history of the Nile is even more persuasive of an ancient earth. Unfortunately when you get into the real science you lose most YEC because they really don’t care about any science that doesnt include a global flood as the standard explanation. I am an ex YEC and even held on to that world view after graduating from Stanford with a major in Human biology- A major lead by some a the most well known experts in evolution at that time (1977-81). I am embarrassed to say I got much of my arguments from Kent Hovind. (I have repented).
      Having said that, I want the author of this series to continue posting these scientifically accurate posts on our panets geological history.
      Lack of responses is irrelevant. I for one have never had exposure to the geological hx of the nile. Its another evidence that the YEC leaders will someday have to defend. I am just hoping that with time my very good christian friends will realize that this insistence that the bible demands a 6000 year old earth/universe will fade away and the divisiveness will turn to unity. Thanks for the post. If it only impacts a few it is worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A little beside the point but I would suggest the seas before the flood were not salty. The salt in our seas only happened because of the flood. it squeezed material and one of the products is what we call salt. so when salt is found in strata layers its , possibly, just the actual original collection of material THAT ALSO spread around the seas at the end of the flood year. YEC, surely, would teach that on creation week the seas were all pure water.

    i think the great canyon was created a few centuries after the flood, probably before the dispersal from Babel. it was a sudden movement of water from somewhere, possibly the sea on the east. This from a worldwiude jump/drop of the continents. in order to flood the edges enough to stop any more migration of flora/fauna and fulfill the prophecy to Japhet. That is to enlarge him at the expense of the other two.


    1. I can say with a great amount of confidence that this fits the definition of nonsense. This speculation does not account for even a small portion of the observation data and would require radical changes to many laws of chemistry and physics.
      BTW, I doubt you mean “pure water.” Even the best bottled water is not “pure water” and why would pure water be more perfect than salt water in an ocean? That is like saying that the earth’s orbit had to be circular in creation because an elliptical orbit is not a perfect orbit.


      1. In a original PERFECT creation it could be pure. after the fall it would be drinkable. So I hypothesis that salt only came into the seas after the chaos of the flood. in fact the salt most likely created by the great pressures of water on sediment. Squeezing the elements out of things it squeezed.
        therefore the concentrations of salt found between layers is only special cases of this pressurized event.
        It is another option they also just got squeezed out of water while the whole strata was being squeezed. Yet I think it more likely salt was a byproduct of the pressurized events going on and its only a special case it was spread throughout the seas by simple dispersion. its litter.
        not sure but a hypothesis.


        1. This is good thinking, Robert. What todays science needs is novel hypotheses, since the old materialistic world view was refuted by the scientific evidence. W.r.t. the freshwater seas, it would solve several biological problems, such as Cyclids in Afrikan and S-American lakes. For good hypotheses on the vulcanic origin of salt pillars and saltwater oceans there is Stef Heerema, a dutch thinker, His articles can be found here:


      2. “I can say with a great amount of confidence that this fits the definition of nonsense. This speculation does not account for even a small portion of the observation data and would require radical changes to many laws of chemistry and physics.”

        Currently, the oceans contain an estimated 1.5 x 10(exp)16 tons of NaCl. The annual amount of NaCl added to the oceans by rivers and other sources is estimated to be 4.6 x 10(exp)8 tons. The annual amount of NaCl to leave the oceans is estimated to be 1.2 x 10(exp)8 tons. So, the seas become saltier every year.

        Under the assumption of uniformity, a simple calculation is enough to see that the seas and oceans were of fresh water less than 50 million years ago. This could even be thousands of years if the origin of salt is vulcanic, as Stef Heerema argues.


          1. Actually, as a completely unbiased scientist interested in origin questions, I am very interested in calculations using the right assumptions. What are the right assumption, how do you know they are right and could you do the calculation using the right assumptions?


            1. Peer. Bingo. All origin conclusions COULD only start from conclusions already concluded.
              That is the problem in all human investigation and especially in the Biology/geology stuff they use against creationism.
              Any thing about the past is open to imagination on what it was likle.
              i suggest, surely true, that the seas were all drinkable fresh water. then they ONLY becvame salty from a sudden concentration of elements during the great flood. therefore the salt deposits in between layers of rock DOES not mean it was laid bt drying seas but ONLY was more salt concentration from the chaos of everything thrown around. The salt in our seas today mostly is likely just from the same chaos.
              Its a hypothesis.


              1. Just read the link. There is no science whatsoever in Joel Duff’s apologetics. There is not even a number. The numbers I gave are the best scientific estimations. They are very straightforward, since we only have to know the in and the out per time unit. So, if YECs are so wrong, please explain, Dr Duff, what is wrong with the numbers? What is wrong with the assumptions? What are the correct assumptions? Why are they correct? And please do some calculation to show the alleged billions of years. Thanks.


                1. As Dr. Duff points out in the linked articles, chronology based on ocean salinity is based on the faulty assumption that ocean salinity has been increasing. There is no basis for this assumption (the evidence suggests fluctuations) and so any extrapolations based on the idea of gradually increasing salinity are invalid.


                  1. This is handwaving. The papers are not even relevant. They show some data taken between 1950 and 2000 that salt levels may fluctuate. But what are 50 years over a period of 100 of millions to billions? The fact is: salts flow to the sea. And we know that there is no way out for the salts except for some deposition and salt production by men. The net effect is that 300 million tons flow to the sea annually. That is enough to transform a fresh water ocean system in the salty oceans we currently have in about 50-60 million years. So we lack about 4.5 billion years. Do we need Science and Nature papers to do the simple calculations? No, it is very straightforward maths and Dr Duff simply does not address the real issue. He is distracting with irrelevant papers containing irrelevant data. If he can show and provide data that the net effect would be an annual influx of 3 million tons of salt, he can argue that the earth is about 5 billions years. Since he cannot show this, the oceans are demonstrated to be much younger. There is no way out for Dr. Duff.


                    1. As Stef Heerema argues…the salt is of vulcanic origin. The seas used to be fresh water and the immense catastroph recorded in Genesis caused them to become salt due to enormous geologic activities. It is a reasonable hypothesis. It makes sense in the light of the scientific data we have for influx and efflux of NaCl.


            2. Peer says: “as a completely unbiased scientist interested in origin questions”.
              This is a bit thick from the author of “Darwin Revisited: or how to understand biology in the 21st century “,, and a writer in the Journal of creation.


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