The oldest Acheulean in North Africa discovered in Casablanca

A Moroccan-Franco-Italian team has just announced that the Acheulean (material culture of the ancient Paleolithic), unearthed in the Thomas I quarry in Casablanca (Morocco), dates back 1.3 million years and is therefore the oldest in North Africa.

“The beginning of the Acheulean, marked by the appearance of macro-tools, is considered to be a major technological advance in the course of human evolution. The Acheulean first appeared in East Africa at 1.8 million years ago and in South Africa between 1.6 Ma and 1.0 million years ago. North Africa, however rich in Acheulean sites, conceals very few localities documenting the ancient Acheulean and their dating has until now remained conjectural.

The study, published on July 28, 2021 in the journal Scientific Reports, provides the first high-resolution chronological framework of the oldest Acheulean in North Africa, ”the National Institute of Archaeological and Scientific Sciences said on Wednesday. heritage (INSAP).

The oldest known Acheulean in Morocco was discovered in the region of Casablanca, in the deposits of unit L of the Thomas I quarry, systematically excavated since 1985 by a Moroccan-French team, the statement said. The site, whose age was estimated at around 1 million years, has yielded a rich lithic corpus associating carved objects, natural pebbles and faunal remains, detailed the same source, explaining that “the main objective was the manufacture of macro-tools (trihedral, bifacial and cleavers) on large pebbles and large fragments of quartzite pebbles collected in the immediate vicinity ”.

The assemblage also includes the production of small and medium quartzite and flint shards. Some of the flint objects are characterized by a production of shards with a laminar tendency by a bipolar technique on an anvil. An international and interdisciplinary team carried out magnetostratigraphic and geochemical studies on the Pleistocene sequence of the Thomas I quarry which, based on lithostratigraphic, biostratigraphic studies and dating carried out in previous years, made it possible to construct, for the first time in North Africa, a high-resolution chronostratigraphic framework and to establish that the emergence of this ancient Acheulean dates back 1.3 million years.

The site L of the Thomas quarry in Casablanca is today “the oldest Acheulean site in North Africa”, continued the same source. “Such a result allows for the first time a site in this region of the world to play an important role in the current debate on the emergence of the Acheulean on the African continent”, argued INSAP.

The research, which led to this publication, was carried out by a team including researchers attached to several laboratories and institutions namely INSAP under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports / Department of Culture. In France, these are the Archeology of Mediterranean Societies laboratories (University Paul Valéry Montpellier 3 / CNRS / MC), the Prehistory to Current Laboratory: Culture, Environment and Anthropology (PACEA –Université Bordeaux / CNRS / MC) , CR2P (CNRS, MNHN, Sorbonne University), of the Mediterranean Institute of Biodiversity and Marine and Continental Ecology (Aix Marseille University, CNRS, IRD), Natural History of Prehistoric Man (CNRS, MNHN, UPVD, Sorbonne University, Institute of Human Paleontology) and the Paleotime society.

In Italy, the teams of the Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra “Ardito Desio” of the Università degli Studi di Milano and the Dipartimento di Ingegneria e Geologia of the Università “G. d’Annunzio” di Chieti-Pescara took part. to this research.

This research work is carried out within the framework of the Moroccan-French program “Prehistory of Casablanca”, jointly developed by INSAP and the University Paul Valery Montpellier 3, according to the press release.

The magnetostratigraphic study was carried out by the Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra “A. Desio ”from the Università di Milanoet funded by the Dipartimenti di Eccellenza 2018–2022 ‘from the Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca (Italia).

The program also benefited from the support of the Aquitaine region, the University of Bordeaux, the Collège de France, the Muséum d’Histoire naturelle in Paris and the Department of Human Evolution of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany). .



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