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2022-03-25 13:07:19   •   ID: 2316

Filling the Chronological Gaps in North Africa: The ESA at Casablanca

Figure 1
The Handaxe and Cleaver of this Post are large Cutting tools (LCTs) from non dated Middle Pleistocene Contexts in the Sahara in North Africa.

They certainly really deserve this classification, being around 30 cm long.

Of course, these are specimens from times when the African Acheulian was already well established and spread during Middle Pleistocene wet phases over long distances over the Sahara. They may be well 600-400 k.a. old.

The early Acheulian appeared in East Africa 1,8 mya and in South Africa around 1,6 mya. About the Paleolithic of S-Africa please see here: 2224 , here: 1657 , here: 2169 , here: 1715 and here: 2071 .

The East African Background has already been described here: 1474 .

The last few years have been marked not only by a reassessment of the North African MSA, but also of the early regional Acheulian, providing new insights. In this respect, this post is a short update on the subject.

One main hot spot of interest to archaeology for decades has been the "Thomas Quarry" on the outskirts of Casablanca (Morocco).

Here there is a Late Pliocene to Early/Middle Pleistocene Succession, which is of interest in the question of the development of the regional Acheulian. Generally Prehistorians, working in this area, speak of a "first" and "second" Acheulian (according to Raynal).

The second Acheulian is associated with the remains of H. Heidelbergensis / Rhodensis and has not only detected at Thoma Quarry but nearby at Oulad Hamida and Sidi Abderrahmane Quarries also, and is ca. 500-600 k.a. old.

The "first Acheulian", briefly described here, is now dated by different scientific methods that have yielded very consistent results around 1,3 mya-that is, not much different to the age estimates of the south or East African Acheulian (Gallotti et al. 2021, Raynal et al. 2022). This early Acheulian has been contested at Thomas Quarry in the lowermost stratigraphic unit (OH1-Bed 2).

In the absence of volcanism and datable volcanic material, the researchers relied on a combination of Biostratigraphy, Paleomagnetism, optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and electron spin resonance (ESR).

Figure 2
The first Acheulian is typo-technologically distinct from the earlier Oldowan sites of Algeria but also distinct from the initial East/South African Acheulian.

Beside to the production of typical LCTs, this Acheulian is characterized by the production of small bladelet-like flakes on flint. The production of such artifacts is very uncommon or even absent in other early Acheulian sites over the African Continent (Gallotti et al. 2020).

Galotti (2020) described the production of these bladelets as follows: related to small flaking both in quartzite and flint: pebbles were flaked using the bipolar-on-anvil technique repeatedly employing a specific method to produce bladelet-like flakes.

This production represents the oldest dated occurrence of bladelet-like technology in Africa and reveals technical competencies hitherto unknown for these periods, providing further elements for the techno-economic diversification of the African Acheulean

News about the Oldowam in N-Africa will be described in one of the next posts…..