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2016-01-27 18:24:12   •   ID: 1260

The Variability of Epipaleolithic Tanged Points in the Sahara

Figure 1
These are several points from the late Pleistocene and early Holocene, common in the Sahara.

No unified techno-typological approach is available for these artifacts.  The spectrum of such implements includes the classic Ounanian point (upper row of Figure 1: the second point is a microlithic example; lower row of Figure 1: a classic non-microlithic example [7 cm long] is displayed on the right. Ounanian points were first described by Breuil in 1930 at Ounan to the south of Taodeni in northern Mali.

Ounanian Points are suggested to be the hallmark of the some Epipaleolithic industries  in the central Sahara, the Sahel and northern Sudan, and dated to the early Holocene.

These industries differ from the Capsian, commonly found in the Mediterranean landscapes in the North. In the Eastern Sahara many individual types of tanged and shouldered arrowheads occur on early Holocene prehistoric sites. In many cases, dating sites is not sufficiently accurate, and assemblages containing arrowheads are often mixed with artifacts of different chronological phases. Moreover, clear definitions of types and key forms are lacking.

Compared to Ounanian points sensu Breuil, such points seem to be shorter and broader, and their distal ends are modified in a different way. Some examples were produced from uni- or bidirectional blade and bladelet cores. The microburin technique played a role in many of these ensembles, evoking possible links to the earlier Levantine Harifian. Therefore, the name Ounan-Harif point was proposed for the tanged points at Nabta Playa and Bir Kiseiba  (such points are shown in the center of the lower row in Figure 1).

Riemer and Kindermann described a tanged point, designated:  Abu Tartur point, 14C-dated to about 7645 BP , characterized by a special  manufacturing technique. The points were made out of blades using the microburin technique with a notching of both edges.

Similar points were also recognized from Kharga Oasis where a small number were found with concentrations of the “Bedouin Microlithic”.

The Epipaleolithic culture of Foum Arguin stretched from the Oued Draa, in southern Morocco, to the Banc d’Arguin and from the Atlantic shore to the lowlands of northwestern Sahara in Mauritania. 

Dated to the 7 th millenium B.P. it antedates the Neolithic of this region by ca. 1500 years. Some of the points from Foum Arguin fit perfectly into the spectrum of several tanged points displayed in this post.

Suggested Reading: Robert Vernet: Le golfe d'Arguin de la préhistoire à l'histoire : littoral et plaines intérieures (via

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