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Human occupation of Northwest Africa: A review of Middle Palaeolithic to Epipalaeolithic sites in Morocco

Abstract

This paper provides a summary of all available numerical ages from contexts of the Moroccan Middle Palaeolithic to Epipalaeolithic and reviews some of the most important sites. Particular attention is paid to the so-called “Aterian”, albeit those so-labeled assemblages fail to show any geographical and chronological pattern. For this reason, this phenomenon should not be considered a distinct culture or techno-complex and is referred to hereinafter as Middle Palaeolithic of Aterian type. Whereas anatomical modern humans (AMH) are present in Northwest Africa from about 160 ka onwards, according to current research some Middle Palaeolithic inventories are more than 200 ka. This confirms that, for this period it is impossible to link human forms with artifact material. Perforated shell beads with traces of ochre documented from 80 ka onwards certainly suggest changes in human behavior.

The transition from Middle to Upper Palaeolithic, here termed Early Upper Palaeolithic – at between 30 and 20 ka – remains the most enigmatic era. However, the still scarce data from this period requires careful and fundamental revision in the frame of any future research. By integrating environmental data in reconstruction of population dynamics, clear correlations become obvious. High resolution data are lacking before 20 ka, and at some sites this period is characterized by the occurrence of sterile layers between Middle Palaeolithic deposits, possibly indicative of shifts in human population. After Heinrich Event 1, there is an enormous increase of data due to the prominent Late Iberomaurusian deposits that contrast strongly from the foregoing accumulations in terms of sedimentological features, fauna and artifact composition. The Younger Dryas shows a remarkable decline of data marking the end of the Palaeolithic. Environmental improvements in the Holocene are associated with an extensive Epipalaeolithic occupation.

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Bibliography

Linstädter, J., Eiwanger, J., Mikdad, A., Weniger, G. (2012): Human occupation of Northwest Africa: A review of Middle Palaeolithic to Epipalaeolithic sites in Morocco. – In: Quaternary International, Vol. 274, p: 158-174, DOI: 10.1016/j.quaint.2012.02.017

Authors Jörg Linstädter and Josef Eiwanger and Abdessalam Mikdad and Gerd-Christian Weniger
Type article
Title Human occupation of Northwest Africa: A review of Middle Palaeolithic to Epipalaeolithic sites in Morocco
DOI 10.1016/j.quaint.2012.02.017
Journal Quaternary International
Year 2012
Volume 274
Pages 158-174
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