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Low-lying plain composed of stream-borne sediments deposited by a river at its mouth. Deltas have been important to humankind since prehistoric times. Sands, silts, and clays deposited by floodwaters were extremely productive agriculturally; and major civilizations flourished in the deltaic plains of the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates rivers. In recent years geologists have discovered that much of the world's petroleum resources are found in ancient deltaic rocks. Deltas vary widely in size, structure, composition, and origin, though many are triangular (the shape of the Greek letter delta).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on delta, visit Britannica.com.