It had no mouth connecting it to the Mediterranean, being fed with Nile water via a number of canals. By the twelfth century the lake had dwindled to a collection of salt lakes and salt flats  and it had dried up by the Late Middle Ages. The salt waters were kept separate from Lake Mariout by the canal that allowed fresh water to travel from the Nile to Alexandria. Lake Abu Qir ceased to exist, and Lake Mariout became brackish instead of fresh.
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Early in the Neolithic Period nearly 4,—11, years ago , the lake rose again and then gradually subsided. Neolithic and Early Dynastic people made their homes on the slowly shrinking shores. Not until the Egyptian Middle Kingdom c. Probably either Sesostris II or Amenemhet III widened and deepened the channel, thus setting the lake once more in hydraulic equilibrium with the river.
The lake, which was then 55 feet 17 m above sea level, served both as a flood control that was able to take excess water from overly high Nile floods and as a reservoir whose waters could be used for irrigation after the Nile flood had subsided.
In about bc when Herodotus visited the lake, he assumed it to be artificial and was told that it had been dug by King Moeris at least years before. Large land-reclamation projects in the Fayyum region were carried out by the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt. Under Ptolemy II Philadelphus in the 3rd century bc, Lake Moeris was partially drained by means of a dam that restricted the entry of Nile water into it.
The rich alluvial soil that was thus laid bare approximately square miles [1, square km] of it was irrigated by canals and subjected to intensive cultivation. The population around the lake thus increased at a rapid rate, and a number of new towns sprang up. The modern-day excavation of several of these sites has yielded a rich harvest of Hellenistic and Roman papyri. The Fayyum region continued to flourish during the first two centuries of Roman rule, but thereafter it declined.
Learn More in these related Britannica articles:.
Abusir (Lake Mariout)
Plinthine on Lake Mariut in Egypt
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