For thousands of years the Nile River The Nile River has fertilized valleys along its meandering route through northeast Africa, anchoring ancient civilizations and still serves as an important transport and irrigation route today.
But the age of its centuries-old waters, extending 2425 miles (6,800 kilometers), has been debated, with one group of experts claiming that the river was born about 6 million years ago when the drainage system changed course while another claimed river is five times older than that.
A new study finds evidence to support the latter theory: The Nile River may have originated about 30 million years ago, driven by the movement of the Earth's mantle ̵
Related: Photos: 3400-year-old tomb along the Nile River
The Nile River is believed to have been formed simultaneously with the Ethiopian Mountains, said lead author Clau , Professor at the Jackson School of Geology, University of Texas. The Ethiopian Mountains are where one of the major tributaries or branches of the Nile River, called the Son Nile, begins.
The Blue Nile imports most of the water of the Nile – and most of its sediment – into the other tributary (White Nile) into Sudan before discharging into the Mediterranean.
Faccenna and his team had previously analyzed sediment collected by the Nile Delta – land formed as sediment, deposited where the river meets the Mediterranean – and compared their composition and age to an ancient volcanic rock discovered on the Ethiopian Plateau. They found that sediments and rocks coincide and are between 20 million and 30 million years old, suggesting that the river formed at the same time as the plateau.
So then the researchers were wondering if they could see how the river was possibly connected to the Earth's mantle, as theory suggested, Fatzenia told Live Science. In a new study, Faccenna and his colleagues create a computer simulation that reproduces 40 million years of plate tectonics on Earth – a theory that suggests that the outer shell of the Earth is cut into pieces that move around and collapse glide on the mantle.  Their simulation showed that a hot mantle flame – an outburst of an extremely hot rock in the mantle – pushed the earth upward, creating the Ethiopian mountains and also activating the still existing mantle "conveyor", which pushed up the Ethiopian mountains to the south and pulling the ground down north. That creates a slope to the north that the Nile is still moving in, Fasena said.
It is not clear whether the Nile River has ever changed its course all its life – even slightly – and this is something that Faqzenna and his team hope to understand the future. They also want to use this method to analyze how the mantle can change the course of other rivers around the world.
Originally published by Live Science .