In the 15 years following the Second World War, the available data on the prehistory of North Africa were summarised in a series of major syntheses (notably Alimen 1955; Balout 1955; Ford-Johnston 1959; and Vaufrey 1955). With stratified sequences few and far between, radiometric techniques of absolute dating still at the developmental stage, and little detailed information on palaeoenvironments, it was inevitable that the emphasis of all these studies was on the description and classification of the archaeological record, and its organisation into regional cultural sequences. As far as Libya was concerned, the prehistoric rock carvings of the Fezzan were already well known, particularly from the studies by Graziosi before the war (Graziosi 1934; 1937; 1942), but in terms of artifact assemblages Libyan prehistory was much less understood than the prehistoric sequences of the Maghreb to the west and accordingly much less represented in the syntheses of the 1950s. In general, the prehistory of North Africa was described as a succession of ‘cultural groups’ that were correlated more or less with the better-documented palaeolithic, mesolithic, and neolithic sequences of Europe.
During the 1960s, two major studies of Libyan prehistory were published which have had a dominating influence on research in the following 20 years. The first was the publication by Charles McBurney (1967) of the deep stratigraphy of the Haua Fteah cave on the coast of Cyrenaica. McBurney began research on the Libyan Palaeolithic in the years immediately after the war, publishing a variety of surface collections (1947), trial excavations in the Hagfet ed Dabba cave (1950), and a joint study with C. W. Hey (1955) of the relationship between Pleistocene geological and archaeological sequences in Cyrenaica. His excavations in the Haua Fteah were conducted in 1951, 1952, and 1955, the deep sounding revealing a detailed sequence of layers spanning the middle and upper palaeolithic, epipalaeolithic (or mesolithic), and neolithic occupations of the cave (for initial reports: McBurney 1960; 1961; 1962). The full report was able not only to describe the remarkable sequence of assemblages, but also to correlate these with a palaeoenvironmental sequence established from faunal, molluscan, and sedimentary studies of the cave stratigraphy, the sequence also being tied to an absolute chronology based on 20 radiocarbon determinations. The Haua Fteah stratigraphy remains unique not only in Libya but in North Africa as a whole.