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2016-12-04 07:44:35   •   ID: 1541

Ounan Points revisited

Figure 1
 This is a classic Ounan point from northern Mali (8cm long). The Ounanian point was first recognized by Breuil in 1930 at Ounan to the south of Taodeni in northern Mali from a surface collection of tools made from quartzite, which he ascribed to the Epi-Palaeolithic.

Made on blades, these specialized tools have had the proximal end modified by steep retouch to form a narrow perçoir –like tang or shank and shoulders, or more usually a single shoulder. Very often, this tang is incurved towards the shouldered edge of the tool.

Since the distal end is generally pointed, either naturally or by retouch, the tool is more probably a specialized form of projectile point rather than a perçoir , and the pointed tang would have served as an aid to hafting or perhaps in the case of the incurved examples as some kind of barb.

Ounanian Points are the hallmark of the Epipaleolithic in the central Sahara, the Sahel and northern Soudan, and are dated between 10 and 6 k.a. BP.

Similar points were also recognized from Kharga Oasis where a small number were found with concentrations of the “Bedouin Microlithic” (Caton-Thompson, 1952:162).

Although many points found in the Eastern Sahara are similar to “classic” Ounan points from Algeria and the Central Sahara , the eastern group has a wider variation. They seem to be shorter and broader, and their distal ends are often modified. Therefore, the name Ounan-Harif point was proposed for the Egyptian varieties at Nabta Playa and Bir Kiseiba and Abu Tartur  in relation to the Near Eastern Epipaleolithic Harif point.

Numerous microlithic ensembles with tanged points, which sometimes displaying the characteristics of Ounan points, were found in the Azawagh basin in northern Niger, where they are dated to ca. 6 k.a. BC.

At Adrar Bous and Greboun, Clark detected classic Ounanian points as a component of a non-microlithic Epipaleolithic; blade-based industry characterized by shouldered points, burins, scrapers and “meches de foret”which he called "Ounanian". He proposed that the Ounanian represent the end of a general phenomenon of diffusion of northern blade industries throughout the Sahara, beginning sometime after 12 k.a years ago.

Overall it remains unclear if the Ounan point is the “fossil directeur” of a specific entity, and how the numerous tanged symmetric points from the central Sahara relate to this artifact type.

The archaeological and chronological context of these points is often poorly defined and  it may be to early for reconstructing prehistoric migrations on the basis of such limited data.

Provenance: Collection Wagner (GER)