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2013-05-09 13:06:15   •   ID: 1085

Handaxe from the Draa Valley (Marocco)

Figure 1
The Sahara is rich in Palaeolithic resources and an enormous amount of material was collected during the nineteenth-century colonial explorations by the French military.

Subsequent scientific expeditions have also shown the overwhelming presence of the Acheulian in much of the Sahara. Some major sites include Tihodaine in the Central Sahara, in Algeria, Saoura in the north-western Sahara, in Algeria , and the Draa Valley in southern Morocco. Further posts on this topic 1235 , 1447 .

The Draa, also spelled Dra or Draâ, is Morocco's longest river (1100 km). It is formed by the confluence of the Dadès River and Imini River. It flows from the High Atlas mountains south-(east) ward to Tagounit and from Tagounit mostly westwards to the Atlantic Ocean somewhat north of Tan-Tan. Biberson (1961) reported numerous sites with a non-dated early Paleolithic and assigned the non-dated artifact accumulations to the "Pebble culture" (now generally seen as a selective collection of Geofacts); "Old Acheulian" (without prepared core technique) and "Younger Acheulian (with discoid or  Levallois technique).

The artifact, displayed here would have been assigned by Biberson to an early Acheulian, but 60 years after his publication we have lost any confidence on typological seriations for the early Paleolithic. Recent excavations at the classic sites at Casablanca have shown a  highly variable early Paleolithic beginning at 1 Mio k.a. BP. 

This industry  can include ensembles with or without Handaxes, Cleavers, Chopping tools; and even stratified collections of artifacts composed of small instruments without any  large cutting tools- resembling early industries in South Europe.

North African Acheulian should be reconsidered in the debate about the first occupation of Europe and especially in the discussions about the question of multiple "Out of Africa" hypothesis through Mediterranean straits and isthms. One million years ago, our ancestors who manufactured Acheulian lithic assemblages, were facing Southern Europe and nobody can firmly exclude their possible desire and ability for crossing the waters of the narrow strait of Gibraltar.

Suggested Reading:

BIBERSON (Pierre) Le paleolithique inferieur du Maroc atlantique. Rabat, Service des Antiquites du Maroc, 1961.