The Sahara was not always a desert

The Sahara was not always a desert

The Sahara has not always been a desert, it has known periods when it was dotted with lakes, river basins and grasslands that formed a landscape conducive to human expansion, says a Spanish-Moroccan archaeological study.

In the now arid lands of the Jerada region, a team from the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) and the Mohammed I University of Oujda have since 2006 excavated dozens of sites in the north from Morocco, to find animal remains and sometimes a human presence dating from 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.

The discoveries confirm that in this area, today on the edge of the Sahara, there was a cyclical green savannah where the “hipparion”, ancestor of the three-hoofed horse, the “dinofelis”, a kind of saber-toothed tiger, ran, or even an ancestor of the Barbary macaque dating back 2.5 million years.

No human remains have yet been found at the various sites, but evidence of their presence does exist. Stone tools, but also marks left by these tools on animal bones have been discovered, some of which date back 500,000 years, Spanish media report.

In addition, other tools have still not been analyzed and the researchers estimate that, according to the morphology of these, they could date back to more than 1.5 million years. This date would be close to the 3 million years of the remains of human ancestors found in Kenya and Tanzania, or the 7 million in Chad, regions considered by several archaeologists to be the cradle of humanity.

For the archaeologist specializing in human evolution and director of IPHES, Robert Sala, who leads the project, the discoveries in Morocco confirm that ” cyclically the Sahara disappears as a desert and there are connections across the continent“, which allowed ” man to expand very quickly and, in fact, ” faster than previously thought“.

For now, we are still talking about the cradle (of humanity) in the east and in Chad“Sala told Spanish news agency EFE, while adding that ” little by little we find that the cradle may be very large and covers all of Africa“.

It will be very difficult to know where the beginning is“, specified the archaeologist. For now, the oldest part is in East Africa, but ” we are convinced that with a little time and work, we will be able to prove that here (in Morocco), it is as old as there” , he added.


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