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2019-06-27 16:40:09   •   ID: 2108

Quartz Arrowheads from the early late Holocene in Senegal

Figure 1
These are some examples of arrowheads, exclusively made from Quartz, coming from a large surface scatter in N- Senegal. The typology of these artifacts, presumably from the second millennium BC, differ somewhat from their earlier counterparts in the Sahara, described by Hugot during the 1950ies, but this may be explained by the morphological constraints of the splintery raw material.

The operational sequence begins with the detachment of small flakes (max 2 cm long) from homogeneous quartz. Subsequently the margins of the arrowheads were retouched. In a further step the upper face was covered with flat retouches. The lower face may completely plain or was also covered by flat retouches, sometimes only over a limited part of its surface.

Figure 2
Until the 3rd millennium BC, the Neolithic occupation of West Africa was concentrated in the mountains of the Sahara (Tassili n'Ajjer, Hoggar, Adrar des Iforas and Aïr), to the paleolakes of the Taoudenni Basin and the Banc d’Arguin wetlands in Mauritania.

Human groups mainly practiced hunting and fishing in a more or less wooded savannah environment. Cattle breeding, which appeared during the 7th millennium BC, was then extended to the entire Taoudenni basin. The Ténérian-see 1019 and here: 1368 is a typical complex of such pastoral societies, although there is much variably, regarding raw material and artifactual composition.

Figure 2
In the Sahel, traces of occupation dating from this period are more rare and take the form of microlithic quartz industries, sometimes mixed with shards of pottery. These remains are interpreted as the material manifestations of hunter-gatherers who, in contact with the Saharan populations, adopted "Neolithic" technologies such as ceramics. Quartz remained a preferred raw material even during later times.

At the turn of the second millennium BC, the aridification of the climate intensified and the current climatic conditions are progressively taking place: a long dry season, interrupted in summer by two months of rains linked to the West African monsoon.

Figure 3
The northern limit of the Sahel changed from 22 ° N to 17 ° N during three millennia, leading to shrinking and then disappearing of savanna areas around the mountain ranges and the gradual drying up of paleolakes and Saharan rivers.

From the second millennium BC, the sites are nevertheless fewer in the Sahara than in the Sahel. The occupation is also becoming denser south of Sebkha in Mauritania, around the inner Niger Delta and in the Gao regions of Mali and the Niger river valley.

The hypothesis most commonly used to explain this phenomenon is that the aridification of the climate would have led the Neolithic societies of the Sahara to migrate to the current Sahelian zone.