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2020-06-18 18:02:41   •   ID: 2185

MSA Foliate from the Ténéré

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This is a 10,3 cm long Bifacial Foliate, made fom fine grained Basalt, found decennia ago 150 km East of the Termit Massiv / Niger in the southeastern Ténéré near the Oasis Agadem.

The overall design and the raw material speak against a Neolithic implement in favour of a bifacial MSA-point.

The Ténéré is a desert region in the south central Sahara. It comprises a vast plain of sand stretching from northeastern Niger into western Chad, occupying an area of over 400000 square km.

The Ténéré's boundaries are the Aïr Mountains in the west, the Hoggar Mountains in the north, the Djado Plateau in the northeast, the Tibesti Mountains in the east, and the basin of Lake Chad in the south.

Oasis Agadem: The designation "oasis" may a little bit euphemistic, as I was told by People who visited this place during the last years. The last scientific expedition took place by the 1th Mission Beliet in 1959.

Today the Agadem depression as well as the plateaus of Homodji and Tcheni Tchasi are characterized by deeply fissured sandstone, which is iron crusted in its upper parts.

Since the 1970ies it is evidenced by geomorphological research and remote sensing, that during the early Holocene, and even earlier, during the Middle Pleistocene, Lakes up to 40 m deep formed in presently dessert areas of Niger, near Agadem, Bilma and Fachi.

This is known as the "Green Sahara" phenomena, already introduced into the Blog- see for example here: 1368 .

The find-spot of our artifact is located in ithe Periphery both of Pleistocene Megalake Chad and a dense network of Rivers connected with this megalake and the Seresti Tibesti River drainage.

Therefore people lived within a favorable environment during MIS5 or even earlier in the Middle Pleistocene (see last external Link- Page 7).

Lake Chad, with a present mean depth of about 4m, then stood 38 m above its present level; at that time it covered an area the size of the United Kingdom and reached a maximum depth of about 340 m in the Bodele depression in the northeast. Indeed, Mega Chad was the biggest freshwater lake on earth.

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Figure 4 displays the Geographic localisation of the Oasis Agadem (© 2020 NASA; Terrametrics - Kartendaten © 2020 Google).

Bifacial Foliates in the Southern Niger could be Part of two "Entities"- The Lupemban and the Aterian - see here: 2024 , here 1273 , here 1052 and here: 1272 .

During wet periods in this region, there could have been a population inflow both from the Tibesti ("Aterian Interaction sphere") or Megalake Chad ( "Lupemban Interaction sphere").

Both industries show a spectrum of Innovations, compared with the ESA (Hafting, Use of Ochre, pressure flaking, blades, composite tools and evidence of symbolic expression..)

The Aterian is found over a vast area-from Morocco to Egypt and as far south as the Sahel. The Aterian of the Central Sahara, usually defined as a Middle Paleolithic with Levallois and Discoid traits including tanged Points and Bifacial Foliates is present in the region of Southern Libya and Algeria, the Northern Niger and Chad.

Aterian ensembles are present from MIS6 (about 190-130 k.a.) to MIS3 (about 59-29 k.a.). While the timing of its beginnings is now rather clear, the timing of its end is ambiguous and may be as late as 30 k.a. in remote areas.

The most southern Lanceolate bifaces of the Central Sahara in an Aterian context were found at Adrar Bous / Niger, ca 600 km North-West from Agadem. They clearly bear similarities to those of the Lupemban technocomplex of Central Africa (Clark 1993).

In Clarks view, the Aterian landscape at Adrar Bous included both habitation sites and work camp locations, while another Aterian scatter was thought to have been a hunters' lookout (Clark 1993).
Figure 5

Another Aterian site was documented by Tillet at Seggedim, N/E-Niger. Tillet excavated one larger central zone and two smaller sites in the vicinity.

The central Zone, 7 m in diameter represented a clearly confined area with about 5600 lithics. Similar findings were present in the smaller sites.

Beside denticulates and scrapers, tanged pieces and some foliates were present. One particularity of the Aterian in the Central Sahara are intentionally perforated lithics.

At Seggedim they were found on Levallois debitage- maybe an early case of Symbolism.

The central site was interpreted as a knappers camp, with debitage from Levallois and Discoid operational sequences.

The lithics were found near a raw material outcrop, used either over a long period or repeatedly on a number of occasions (Tillet 1985).

The Lupemban of Central Africa and the Eastern Lowlands is dated roughly between 400-150 k.a BP.

It can be identified on the basis of relatively small parallel sided core axes and bifacial foliates and lanceolates, often combined with a blade element and Levallois flake tools.

Figure 6
At Twin Rivers and Kalambo Falls there is the first African indication for backed tool technology, suggestive for hafting these artifacts.

JD Clark suggested these heavy-duty tools were good for wood-working, based on association of Kalambo Falls site in Zambia with deciduous woodland, and preserved wood at site.

However, a number of other sites, such as those excavated by McBrearty in Kenya and at Sai 8-B-11 were clearly occupied by open grassland or savannas.

At Sai 8-B-11 in northern Sudan the two lowermost strata can be attributed to the Sangoan because of the presence of core-axes and distinctive flake reduction strategies.

Given the evidence of systematic blade production and the presence of a lanceolate in addition to small and regular core-axes, the upper assemblage of this sequence is qualified as Lupemban.

This ensemble is overlain by dune sands dating to around 152 k.a. It is suggested, that this ensemble marks the beginning of the MSA in the Nil valley, which is later evolving towards the “Nubian -MSA”, during OIS6/5.

A Lupemban industry also occurs at the site of Taramsa 1, located on the west bank of the Nile in Upper Egypt, where it dates to 165 k.a.

At the nearby site of Taramsa 8 this industry predates the Last Interglacial pedogenesis.

There are certainly West African outposts of Lupemban-like industries near the Niger, which can currently not sufficiently described in terms of absolute dating and site integrity.

The Lupemban, and the MSA in West Africa in general is understudied, for a variety of reasons.

The few absolute dates interestingly show a broad overlap between the end of the MSA and later quartz based LSA industries.

Numerous undated Stone Age sites, described as Sangoan and Lupemban, were, for example, detected in the southern regions of Cameroon, one gateway to the Mali and Niger regions by Allsworth Jones during the 1980ies. Similar sites have also been recorded from Nigeria, the Ivory coast and Ghana.

The bifacial foliates of these industries do not show the "Gigantism", known from Central Africa and principally resemble the artifact shown in this post.

Ounjougou is the most important stratified site in West Africa located in the Dogon country (Mali). Soriano et al. described MSA artifacts from Levallois and Discoid cores over a stratigraphical succession of 30 levels, dated between MIS 6 (ca 150 k.a.) and as late as MIS 2.

Artifacts were especially rich in MIS3 layers. Bifacial foliates < 10 cm were present during MIS3 but also during MIS2 at ca 25 k.a.- a rather late time-point for an MSA-technology indeed! - but not as rare as thought 20 years ago - see here: 1637 ,...

Suggested Reading:

Sacha C. Jones, Brian A. Stewart (Ed.): Africa from MIS 6-2: Population Dynamics and Paleoenvironments (Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology).

The most interesting book about the African MSA Record published during the last years