One school of thought among archaeologists is that the Nile River is 6 million years old. Not even close, according to a new study in Nature Geoscience. The international research team behind the study is siding with those who think the river has been largely in place for much longer: 30 million years, reports Discover. What's more, the researchers say movement in the Earth's mantle—the area between the core and crust—is what brought the river to life and has dictated its course of more than 4,200 miles, per Live Science. The discovery could shed light on the planet's inner workings and how they affect the surface.
“Maybe we can use rivers to understand how the mantle flows," researcher Claudio Faccenna of the University of Texas at Austin tells Gizmodo. Researchers say the river sprang to life when the Ethiopian highlands were created, the result of rock from the mantle surging upward and creating an incline on which the river has flown all this time. This makes the river unusual: Many rivers are created in high elevations when tectonic plates collide, but the Ethiopian highlands have no such plate boundaries, per Discover. This could help explain how other major rivers, such as the Yenisey in Eurasia, came to be. (An Egyptian singer learned the hard way that insulting the Nile is frowned upon in his country.)