Early modern humans and the origins of symbolism in North Africa
Professor Nick Barton, Institute of Archaeology Oxford (Principal Investigator), Prof. A.Bouzougger Institut National des Sciences de l’Arche´ologie et du Patrimoine, Rabat, Morocco. (Principal Investigator)
Some of the earliest evidence for symbolically modern behavior in humans occurs in North Africa around 80,000 years ago, and anticipates by some forty thousand years similar developments in Europe that have been termed the ‘Upper Palaeolithic Revolution’. In Africa such activity is first recognised in the Middle Stone Age (MSA) in the form of personal ornaments such as Nassarius marine shell beads that are perforated and coloured with pigments and are sometimes found hundreds of kilometers inland from the coast. However, such claims are founded on relatively limited archaeological evidence and are not as well dated as the more prolific examples from the Upper Palaeolithic of Europe. Moreover, it has not yet been demonstrated whether the beads and pigments were isolated occurrences or were part of a staged increase in complexity within MSA culture.
The 2012 season, funded by Oxford University’s Fell Fund and the Calleva Foundation, focused on the survey and excavation at Dar es-Soltan 1 Cave . The cave is one of several caves that lie close together, opening from a low cliff on the Atlantic coast on the outskirts of Rabat. It is a multi-layered site, composed of a 7.5 m deep sequence and containing at least three MSA Aterian layers.
All images © Copyright Oxford University Institute of Archaeology, Ian R.Cartwright - 2013