Let Us Now Praise Unknown Men and Women…….


Figure 1 shows a Middle Paleolithic / MSA point from Melka Kunture / Etiopia, which is at least 120 k.a. old. In the archaeological record of both Eastern and Southern Africa as well as in the Middle East there is immense lithic variability associated with Homo sapiens sites. It is important that adaptions and innovations of our Species are embedded in a Middle Paleolithic technology for most of the time. Typical Upper Paleolithic ensembles appeared only at ca 45-40 k.a. BP.

According to the modified replacement model, that I personally prefer, Homo sapiens is supposed to have appeared in East Africa around 200,000 years ago. The oldest individuals found so far are the Omo Kibish remains (195 k.a), found with an elaborated MSA industry (Levallois and Discoidal technology, scrapers and denticulated tools / bifacial points and small handaxes: rare but present)  and the Homo sapiens Idaltu (160 k.a.), that was found at the Herto/Middle Awash site in Ethiopia together with a typical Sangoan industry with some handaxes.

Figure 2 shows some Middle Paleolithic / MSA points from a certain site at Shambyu / Rundu in the Kavango River region of Namibia.

middle paleolitic msa namib

AHMs in South Africa, were present at Border Cave between 115-90 k.a. and at  Klasies River Mouth at ca 90 k.a. Modern humans reached the Near East 100-120 k.a., producing several variants of the “Levallois- Mousterien “. If they stayed here until OIS3 or retreated back to East- Africa remains controversial. In the Nil valley the Taramsa child is coming from a late Middle Paleolithic, Levallois based context ca 55 k.a. Figure 3 shows  two Nubian foliates from the Nil valley-part of the early “Nubian complex”, probably dating to OIS5.


It is now believed by strong genetic evidence that the first modern humans to spread east across Asia left Africa about 75 k.a. years ago across the Bab el Mandib connecting what is today Ethiopia and Yemen. Anyhow we lack of any paleonthological proof for this hypothesis. Figure 4 shows some MSA-Foliates from Yemen, very similar to the East African MSA, but pure Levallois ensembles without a bifacial component have also found in the South of the Arabian peninsula.

middle paleolithic yemen aggsbach

From the Levant (Menot cave 55k.a; Figure 5 shows some Mousterian Points from Northern Israel) and probably from the Arabian peninsula Homo sapiens went east to South Asia (Tam Pa Ling: 46-51 k.a.), East Asia (Tianyuan Cave, Zhoukoudian, near Beijing City: 42- 38 k.a.) and on to Australia. The oldest Australian human fossil remains date to around 40 k.a-this is 15 k.a. after the earliest archaeological evidence of the continents human occupation.  First traces of our species in Europe are dating late, around 35-40 k.a. old (Peştera cu Oase).



Morocco has yielded one of the richest and most complete hominin fossil records of AHMs, dating to OIS5/6 including important cranial remains from Jebel Irhoud, Dar-es-Soltan II, and Contrebandiers Cave.  Early Moroccan H. sapiens is always associated with Middle Paleolithic (Aterian and “Mousterian”). The oldest trace of an archaic Homo sapiens is a 160 k.a. old skull from Jebel Irhoud . If these populations contributed to the genetic pool of modern Humans  that  moved “out of Africa” at 50 k.a BP is unknown, but possible. Figure 6 shows typical Middle Paleolithic tools from the area.

mousterian Marocco

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About Katzman

During my whole life I was fascinated by stone age artefacts. Not only the aesthetic qualities of these findings, but also the stories around them and the considerations arising from their discovery, are a part of my blog. Comments and contributions are allways welcome!

About me: J.L. Katzman (Pseudonym). Born in Vienna. Left Austria in 1974 and did not regret. Studied Medicine and Prehistory at a German University. Member of a Medical Department at a German University.

Copyright 2010-2017 by JLK. All Rights Reserved. You are welcome to use material in these posts so long as you cite the work.

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