On Naming Things: The Ounanian-Harifian Points



The appearance and development of side-notched and tanged projectile points in northeastern Africa and their possible connection to Levantine projectile points has been intensively discussed during the last years. In this context, Harifian and Ounanian points have been always in the focus of such discussions.

The picture above shows:

  • Two classic Ounanian points on top ( Central Sahara)
  • Two classic Harifian Points from the Sinai as shown below
  • and in between some Ounanian-Harifian Points from Egypt and the central/western Sahara

Classic Harifian Points: The Harifian points are the oldest projectiles in the context of N-African points discussed here. They date to between approximately 10, 8 and 10,2  cal.BC. The Harifian technocomplex is restricted to the Sinai and Negev, and is probably broadly contemporary with the Late Natufian or Pre-Pottery Neolithic A. Harif points are elongated pointed bladelets whose blade is formed by the convergence of one backed and one unretouched edge. Their base features a short pointed retouched tang. Harif points are very varied in shape and finish but all are quite small – usually between 1, 75 centimeters and 3 centimeters in length, and so may be counted as microliths. The function of Harif points is uncertain but it may be that they were used to arrows as Khiamian points.

Classic Ounanian Points (sensu Breuil): These points are made on blades those proximal end was modified by steep retouch to form a narrow perçoir –a tang or more often a shoulder. Usually, this tang is incurved towards the shouldered edge of the tool. Since the distal end is generally pointed, either naturally or by retouch, the tool is more probably a specialized form of projectile point rather than a perçoir, and the pointed tang /shoulder would have served as an aid to hafting or perhaps in the case of the incurved examples as some kind of barb. Ounanian Points are the hallmark of the Epipaleolithic in the central Sahara, the Sahel and northern Soudan. According to the latest research, the chronological distribution of the Ounan points in northeastern Africa is between 8 k.a. cal. BC. and 6,5 k.a. cal. BC  and therefore later than Harifian points

Ounan-Harifian points also feature a short, pointed tang, but they are somewhat less elongated than Harif points. Although many points found in the Eastern Sahara are similar to “classic” Ounan points from Algeria and the Central Sahara, the eastern group has a wider variation. They seem to be shorter and broader, and their distal ends are often modified. Therefore, the name Ounan-Harif point was proposed for the Egyptian varieties of tanged / shouldered points. These points, together with examples that are more similar to Ounanian points sensu strictu, have been found at sites in Dakhleh Oasis , Kharga Oasis, the Nabta-Kiseiba region, the Fayum oasis,  Elkab ,at Nabta Playa and Bir Kiseiba and Abu Tartur. These points are dated to 7, 5- 6, 5 k.a. cal.BC. In summary such points are later than classic Ounan and Harifian Points.

Suggested Readings:

Shirai, Noriyuki: The Archaeology of the First Farmer-Herders in Egypt. New Insights into the Fayum Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic .


Robert Vernet : le golfe d’Arguin de la préhistoire à l’histoire via academia edu.

Ounan Points revisited

The Variability of Epipaleolithic Tanged Points in the Sahara



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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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