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Current research and recent radiocarbon dates from Northern Africa

  • Angela E. Close (a1)

The effect of recent radiocarbon dates from North Africa has largely been to extend the principal phases of prehistory back in time. The Middle Palaeolithic now seems to be essentially beyond the range of the radiocarbon technique, at least in the Eastern part of North Africa, although it may persist later in the West, and, throughout North Africa (with the sole exception of Cyrenaican Libya), there remains a disturbing hiatus between the Middle Palaeolithic and the subsequent Late Palaeolithic bladelet industries. The latter now seem to appear at about 20,000 B.c. over most of non-Saharan, North Africa, and may eventually be found to be earlier. Some of the earliest such occurrences may well be associated with domestication of plants (in Egypt) and of animals (in Algeria). If so, this will necessitate serious reconsideration of our concepts of the ‘Neolithic’. In any case, a true Neolithic appears in parts of the Southern Sahara as early as the eighth millennium B.C., and is widespread in the area by the seventh millennium. Curiously, the beginnings of the Neolithic are much later in the neighbouring and more luxuriant areas (the Nile Valley, the Mediterranean littoral and the Maghreb) than they are in the desert. Less research has been done on the final prehistoric and early historic periods, but, in the North, the invention of the Libyan alphabet and, in the South, the later Iron Age of Chad both seem earlier than had been thought.

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1 Willett, F., ‘A survey of recent results in the radiocarbon chronology of western and northern Africa’, J. Afr. Hist., xii (1971), 339–70.

2 Flight, C., ‘A survey of recent results in the radiocarbon chronology of northern and western Africa’, J. Afr. Hist., xiv (1973), 531–54.

3 Posnansky, M. and Mclntosh, R., ‘New radiocarbon dates for northern and western Africa’, J. Afr. Hist. xvii, 2 (1976), 161–95.

4 Calvocoressi, D. and David, N., ‘A new survey of radiocarbon and thermoluminescence dates for West Africa’, J. Afr. Hist., xx (1979), 129.

5 Wendorf, F. and Schild, R., Paleoenvironments and Human Exploitation in the Western Desert of Egypt (New York, in press).

6 Wendorf, F., Schild, R., el Hadidi, N., Close, A. E., Kobusiewicz, M., Wieckowska, H., Issawi, B. and Haas, H., ‘The use of barley in the Egyptian Late Paeolithic’, Science, ccv (1979), 1341–7.

7 Wendorf, F., ‘Late Paleolithic sites in Egyptian Nubia’, in The Prehistory of Nubia, ed. Wendorf, F. (Dallas, 1968), 791953.

8 Wendorf, F. and Schild, R., The Prehistory of the Nile Valley (New York, 1976), 291.

9 Haas, H. and Haynes, V., ‘Southern Methodist University Radiocarbon Date List II’, Radiocarbon, xvii, 3 (1975), 354–63.

10 Phillips, J. L., ‘Two final Paleolithic sites in the Nile Valley and their external relations’, Papers of the Geological Survey of Egypt, lvii (Cairo, 1972).

11 Wendorf, and Schild, , Paleoenvironments.

12 Haas, H., personal communication.

13 Hassan, F. A., personal communication, and ‘Prehistoric studies of the Siwa Oasis region, northwestern Egypt’, Nyame Akuma, ix (1976), 1834. I wish to thank Dr Hassan for providing details of his additional Siwan dates.

14 Wendorf, and Schild, , Paleoenvironments.

17 Camps, G., Les Civilisations Préhistoriques de l'Afrique du Nord et du Sahara (Paris, 1974).

18 Wendorf, and Schild, , Paleoenvironments.

20 Gabriel, B., ‘Zum ökologischen Wandel im Neolithikum der östlichen Zentralsahara’, Berliner Geogr. Abhandlungen, xxvii (Berlin, 1977). Gabriel, Dr has also very kindly provided information on three unpublished dates for ‘fire-places’ in the Western Desert of Egypt (Hv. 8240–2).

21 Wendorf, and Schild, , Paleoenvironments.

22 Flight, ‘Survey’. See also the dates for the Neolithic in the Sudan, below.

23 I am very grateful to Dr F. A. Hassan for providing details of his unpublished dates for the Predynastic.

24 Summaries of some of the dates for Dynastic Egypt may be found in Hassan, F. A., ‘Radiocarbon chronology of Archaic Egypt’, J. Nr. Eastern Studies (in press), and Mellaart, J., ‘Egyptian and Near Eastern chronology: a dilemma?’, Antiquity, liii (1979), 618.

25 Wendorf, F., Schild, R. and Haas, H., ‘A new radiocarbon chronology for prehistoric sites in Nubia’, J. Field Archaeology, vi, 2 (1979), 219–23.

26 Marks, A. E., ‘The Khormusan: an Upper Pleistocene industry in Sudanese Nubia’, in Wendorf, F. (ed.), Nubia, 315–91.

27 Vermeersch, P., El Kab II. L'Elkabien, Epipaléolithique de la Vallée du Nil Egyptien (Brussels, 1978).

28 Valastro, S., Davis, E. M. and Varela, A. G., ‘University of Texas at Austin radiocarbon dates: XII’, Radiocarbon, xx, 2 (1978), 245–73.

29 Posnansky and Mclntosh, ‘Dates’.

30 Haaland, R., ‘Report on the 1979 season in the Sudan’, Nyame Akuma, xiv (1979), 62.

31 Haaland, R., ‘The seasonal interconnection between Zakiab and Kadero: two Neolithic sites in the Central Sudan’, Nyame Akuma, xiii (1978), 31–5.

32 Krzyzaniak, L., ‘New light on early food-production in the Central Sudan’, J. Afr. Hist. xix, 2 (1978), 159–72.

33 Gabriel, , ‘Zum ökologischen Wandel’.

34 Gabriel, B., ‘Protohistorische Steinplätze am Nordrand der Sahara’, Stuttgarter Geogr. Studien, xci (1977), 237–45.

35 Barich, B., ‘La Série Stratigrafica dell'Uadi Ti-n-Torha (Acacus, Libia)’, Origini, viii (1974), 7184.

36 I am very grateful to Dr Barich for providing details of the unpublished dates (R. 1160α, 1163α and 1164α) from Ti-n-Torha.

37 Saxon, E. C., Close, A. E., Cluzel, C., Morse, V. and Shackleton, N. J., ‘Results of recent investigations at Tamar Hat’, Libyca, xxii (1974), 4991.

38 Geist, V., Mountain Sheep (Chicago, 1974), 87–8.

39 ibid. 41–5.

40 Barich, B. and Mori, F., ‘Missione paletnologica Italiana del Sahara libico. Risultati della Campagna 1969’, Origini, iv (1970), 79144.

41 Again, my thanks are due to Dr Barich who provided this unpublished date for Wadi Athal.

42 Posnansky, and McIntosh, , ‘Dates’.

43 Gabriel, B., ‘Terrassenentwicklung und vorgeschichtliche Umweltbedingungen im Enneri Dirennao (Tibesti, östliche Zentralsahara)’, Zeitschr.für Geomorphologie (Berlin-Stuttgart), N.F., Suppl.-Bd. xv (1972), 113–28.

44 Flight, , ‘Survey’.

45 Gabriel, B., ‘Terrassenentwicklung’.

46 Posnansky, and McIntosh, , ‘Dates’.

47 Gabriel, , ‘Zum ökologischen Wandel’.

48 Gabriel, , ‘Terrassenentwicklung’.

49 Treinen-Claustre, F., ‘Nouveaux éléments de datation absolue pour ľâge du Fer de la région de Koro-Toro (Nord du Tchad)’, ĽAnthropologie, lxxxii (1978), 103–9.

50 Six of these dates for the Haddadian(Géol. Dyn. Paris, VI; Gif. 2611, 2613; Hv. 2751, 3804 and 4694) have appeared previously in the Journal (Posnansky, and Mclntosh, , ‘Dates’), but are repeated here since one date was given incorrectly (Géol. Dyn. Paris, VI); three were given with the wrong raw material and without laboratory numbers (Géol. Dyn. Paris, VI, Gif. 2611 and 2613); and five were given with the wrong geographical co-ordinates (Géol. Dyn. Paris, VI; Gif. 2611, 2613; Hv. 2751 and 4694).

51 Camps, G., ‘Tableau chronologique de la préhistoire récente du nord de ľAfrique’, Bull. Soc. Préhist. Fr., lxxi (1974), 261–78.

52 Smith, A. B., ‘A microlithic industry from Adrar Bous, Ténéré Desert, Niger’, Panafrican Congress of Prehistory and Quaternary Studies, Panafrican Congress of Prehistory and Quaternary Studies (Addis Ababa, 1976), 181–96.

53 Gabriel, , ‘Protohistorische Steinplätze’.

54 Gabriel, B., ‘Geographischer Wandel in der Oase Ben Galouf (Südtunesien)’, Stuttgarter Geogr. Studien, xci (1977), 167211.

55 Hassko, B., Guillet, B., Jaegy, R. and Coppens, R., ‘Nancy natural radiocarbon measurements: III’, Radiocarbon, xvi, 1 (1974), 118–30.

56 Camps, , ‘Tableau’.

57 Brahimi, C., ‘L'Ibéromaurusien littoral de la région d'Alger’, Mém. du C.R.A.P.E. xiii (Paris, 1970).

58 Saxon, E. al., ‘Tamar Hat’. Ninth and eleventh millennium B.c. dates were obtained from Tamar Hat by C. Brahimi (‘L'industrie lithique de l'abri de Tamar Hat’, Libyca, xvii (1969), 3548) but he excavated only a small sounding in the upper part of the deposit, and the material he recovered is typologically most like that of the ‘disturbed upper levels’ of Saxon's excavation. Brahimi's dates should, therefore, be treated with caution.

59 Marks, A. E., ‘The Halfan industry’, in Wendorf, (ed.), Nubia, 392461; Wendorf, et al., ‘Use of barley’; Lubell, D., ‘The Fakhurian: A Late Paleolithic industry from Upper Egypt’, Papers of the Geological Survey of Egypt, lviii (Cairo, 1974); Phillips, , ‘Two Final Paleolithic sites’.

60 GrN. 2585–6: Mc, C. B. M.Burney, The Haua Fteah (Cyrenaïca) and the Stone Age of the South East Mediterranean (Cambridge, 1967).

61 Saxon, et al., ‘Tamar Hat’.

62 Close, A. E., ‘The identification of style in lithic artefacts from North East Africa’, Mém. de l'Inst. d'Egypte, lxi (Cairo, 1977).

63 Camps, , ‘Tableau’.

64 Saxon, et al., ‘Tamar Hat’.

65 Close, ‘Identification’.

66 Camps, ‘Tableau’, and Roubet, C., ‘Nouvelles observations sur l'Epipaléolithique de l'Algérie orientale. Le gisement de Koudiat Kifène Lahda’, Libyca, xvi (1968), 55101.

67 Flight, , ‘Survey’.

68 Posnansky, and McIntosh, , ‘Dates’.

69 Medjez II: Gif. 462, 885–9, I454–5; MC. 151, 213–14, 318–23, 325–7 (Camps-Fabrer, H., Un Gisement Capsien de Faciès Sétifien, Medjez II, El-Eulma (Algérie) (Paris, 1975)). AinMisteheyia: I, 7690–1, 8378, 9781–6, 9824–6 (Lubell, D., ‘Prehistoriccultural ecology of Capsian escargotières. Preliminary report on the 1976 field season’, Nyame Akuma, x (1977), 6470; Lubell, D., Ballais, J.-L., Gautier, A., Hassan, F. A., Close, A. E., Chippindale, C., Elmendorf, J. and Aumassip, G., ‘The prehistoric cultural ecology of Capsian escargotières’, Libyca, xxiii (1975), 43121). Relilaï: Gif. 1714–15, 1896–1902, 2120–1 (Delibrias, G., Guillier, M. T. and Labeyrie, J., ‘Gif natural radiocarbon measurements: VIII’, Radiocarbon, xvi, 1 (1974), 1594). Rabah: ALG. 17, 22–3, 46, 59: Gif. 1379, 1381–2; MC. 281, 283 (Camps, , ‘Tableau’). Aïn Dokkara: MC. 337–40, 372–6 (Balout, L. and Roubet, C., ‘Datation radiométrique de l'homme de I'Aïn Dokkara et de son gisement “Escargotière du Chacal” (région de Tébessa, Algérie)’, Lioyca, xviii (1970), 2334; Thommeret, J. and Thommeret, Y., ‘Monaco radiocarbon measurements: iv’, Radiocarbon, xv, 2 (1973), 321–44). Dra-Mta-el-Ma-el-Abiod: L. 133; MC. 625–9 (Camps, ‘Tableau’; Morel, J., ‘L'Industrie lithique de l'escargotière de Dra-Mta-el-Ma-el-Abiod dans le Sud-Est Algérien. Sa composition. Son évolution’, L'Anthropologie, lxxxii (1978), 335–72). El Outed: Gif. 1590–3 (Grébénart, D., ‘Datations par le 14C dans le Capsien Typique d'Algérie’, Bull. Soc. Préhist. Fr. lxvii (1970), 209). Kef Zoura D: I. 9835–8 (Lubell, , ‘Prehistoric cultural ecology…1976’). Aïn Boucherit: ALG. 7; MC. 209–10; Ny. 76 (Camps, ‘Tableau’). El Mermouta: ALG. 18, 20; MC. 285 (Camps, ‘Tableau’; Roubet, C., ‘Premières datations par le carbone 14 obtenues à Alger: méthodes et résultats’, L'Anthropologie, lxxiv (1970), 639–43). Naga, Aïn: ALG. 1213; Gif. 1220–1 (Grébénart, ‘Datations’; Roubet, ‘Premières datations’; Roubet, C., ‘Sur la définition et la chronologie du Néolithique de tradition capsienne’, L'Anthropologie, lxxv (1971), 553–74). Bortal Fakher: L. 240A, 3661 (de Bayle des Hermens, R., ‘Datages par la méthode du C14 des formations géologiques et des gisements préhistoriques d'Afrique du Nord et du Sahara’, Libyca, xiii (1965), 367–80).

70 Lubell et al., ‘Prehistoric cultural ecology’; Morel, J., ‘Découverte d'une pierre à gorge dans une escargotière capsienne de la région de Tébessa’, Libyca, xv (1967), 125–37.

71 Lubell et al., op. cit.

72 Camps, Civilisations, 111–54.

73 Tabni, M., Estorges, P. and Aumassip, G., ‘A Propos du gisement de silex taillés d'El Hassi (Sahara Algérien) découvert en 1880 par la Mission Choisy’, C. R. Acad. Sci., Paris, cclxxxiv (1977), 535–7.

74 Roubet, , ‘Sur la définition’.

75 It was this difficulty which led to Caton-Thompson's creation of the ‘Bedouin Microlithic’ at Kharga (Caton-Thompson, G., Kharga Oasis in Prehistory (London, 1952)) and of ‘Fayum B’ in the Fayum (Caton-Thompson, G. and Gardner, E. W., The Desert Fayum (London, 1934)).

76 Camps, , Civilisations, 309.

77 Roubet, C., ‘Une économie pastorale pré-agricole en Algérie orientale: le Néolithique de tradition capsienne’, L'Anthropologie, lxxxii (1978), 583–6.

78 Flight, , ‘Survey’.

79 Thommeret, and Thommeret, , ‘Monaco’.

80 Posnansky, and McIntosh, , ‘Dates’.

81 Roubet, , ‘Sur la définition’.

82 Tixier, J., Marmier, F. and Trécolle, G., Le Campement Préhistorique de Bordj Mellala, Ouargla, Algérie (Paris, 1976).

83 Aumassip, G., Marmier, F. and Trécolle, G., ‘Le gisement “Les perles” aux environs de Bordj Mellala (Ouargla)’, Libyca, xxii (1974), 145–56.

84 Posnansky, and McIntosh, , ‘Dates’.

85 Flight, , ‘Survey’.

86 Posnansky, and McIntosh, , ‘Dates’.

87 Fairhall, A. W., Young, A. W. and Erickson, J. L., ‘University of Washington dates: IV’, Radiocarbon, xviii, 2 (1976), 221–39.

88 Fairhall et al., op. cit., 227.

89 Evin, J., Marien, G. and Pachiaudi, C., ‘Lyon natural radiocarbon measurements: III’, Radiocarbon, xv, I (1973), 134–55.

90 Camps, G., ‘Amekni, Néolithique ancien du Hoggar’, Mém. du C.R.A.P.E. x (Paris), 1968).

91 Evin, et al., ‘Lyon’, 146.

92 Gabriel, , ‘Zum ökologischen Wandel’ and ‘Protohistorische Steinplätze’.

93 Mori, F., ‘Contribution to the study of the prehistoric pastoral people of the Sahara. Chronological data from the excavations in the Acacus’, Miscalena en Homenaje al Abate Breuil (18771961), 11 (Barcelona, 1965), 172–9.

94 Delibrias, al., ‘Gif’, 39; Rahmouni, O., Roussillot, C. and Armanet, F., ‘Algiers radiocarbon measurements: 1’, Radiocarbon, xii, 2 (1970), 353–7.

95 Camps, G., ‘Recherches sur les plus anciennes inscriptions libyques de l'Afrique du Nord et du Sahara’, Bull. Archéologique, x–xi (1978), 143–66.

96 Roche, J., ‘Cadre chronologique de l'Epipaléolithique marocain’, Congrès de l'U.I.S.P.P. (1976), Coll. 11, 153167.

98 ibid., and Roche, J., L'Epipaléolithique Marocain (Paris, 1963). The dates for Taforalt are: Gif. 2267–73, 2586–7; Kn. 1559; L399E; Sa. 13 and 14.

99 Delibrias, G., Rognon, P. and Weisrock, A., ‘Datations de plusieurs épisodes à “limons roses” dans le Quaternaire récent de l'Atlas atlantique marocain’, C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris, cclxxxii (1976), 593–6.

100 Posnansky, and McIntosh, , ‘Dates’.

101 Grébénart, D., ‘Cénotaphe et inhumations épipaléolithiques de la nécropole d'Izriten (Sahara atlantique)’, Libyca, xxiii (1975), 193200.

102 Grébénart, D., ‘Matériaux pour l'étude de l'Épipaléolithique et du Néolithique du littoral du Maroc saharien’, in L'Epipaléolithique Méditerranéen (Paris, 1975), 151–88.

103 Posnansky, and McIntosh, , ‘Dates’.

104 Grébénart, D., ‘Antilope gravée sur coquille d'œuf d'autruche (Tarfaya, Sahara atlantique marocain)’, L'Anthropologie, lxxvii (1973), 119–26, and ‘Datation d'une antilope gravée sur coquille d'œuf d'autruche provenant de Tarfaya (Sahara atlantique marocain)’, L'Anthropologie, lxxviii (1974), 461–2.

105 Delibrias, et al., ‘Datations’.

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