Everything is broken – Who made the African MSA ?

The artifacts shown in this post come from the North African MSA and are undated. They may be 300 – 30 k.a. old. There are only a few stratified early MSA sites in the Maghreb, that give some insights about the technological evolution during MIS 9-6 and the hominins who were responsible for it.

The late stage of the ESA in the Maghreb is characterized by the assemblage of Cap Chatelier near Casablanca showing the production of predetermined flakes and cordiform thin and small bifaces, flake tools  and a very few cleavers. It is older than isotopic stage 9 after new OSL dates obtained at top of Cap Chatelier section and date about 350 k.a. old.

The Early MSA in  North African MSA began at least by MIS 8 (250-300 k.a. BP) but more probable at the end of MIS 9. It lasted until the end of MIS 3 (30 k.a.) and in some areas until MIS 2 (30-15 k.a.).  The archaeological record is  known from a small number of coastal and hinterland cave sites, mostly located in Morocco.

Only a handful of these dated sites extend into the early MSA. Currently, the oldest chronometric dating estimates come from Jebel Irhoud in Morocco (315 k.a.) and the rock-shelter of Benzú which is located near the city of Ceuta in North Africa (250 k.a.).Both sites are of eminent importance for the understanding of North African Archaeology.

At Benzú the Levallois technique the use of centripetal-multipolar cores is well attested, together with archeological proof of hunting, collecting and exploitation of marine resources. Retouched pieces represent scrapers, notches, denticulates and convergent artifacts. Possible relationships and contacts between MSA / Mousterian societies on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar were and are discussed, but remain completely hypothetical.

At Jebel Irhoud  the oldest lithics are already dominated by Levallois technology with a high proportion of delicate retouched tools, especially convergent forms. Human remains, recently described in detail document early stages of the H. sapiens clade with several key features of modern morphology. These findings indicate that the evolution  of H. sapiens was not restricted to East and South Africa, but  involved also other areas of the African continent. Morocco was not a an evolutionary cul-de-sac!

The MSA at Ifri n’Ammar , located 470 m above sea level in the Rif Oriental of Morocco, starts at OIS 6 (171  k.a.; lower  MSA occupation) and appears similar to older assemblages and comes to an end at 145 k.a, followed by by an MSA with tanged artifacts (“Aterian”)  dated between 130 and 83 k.a. BP.

One of the most inadequate practice in Paleoanthropological research is the hastily attribution of technocomplexes to specific hominins. This insight is not new, but has been substantiated during the last 15 years of research and new discoveries. While it seems probable that the early MSA in Morocco was made by archaic members of the H. sapiens clade, the early Mousterian in Europe was made by late H. heidelbergensis or early Neanderthals.

While the MSA at  Omo Kibish (Ethiopia) was made anatomically modern humans – that were dated at 190 k.a., we do not really know who was responsible for  earlier manifestations of the MSA in East and South Africa.

In this context, the discovery of  Homo naledi has broken old paradigms. Homo naledi from the Rising Star cave system  in South Africa shares many morphological traits with early hominin species including teeth, such as large molars, and femur structure similar to the Homo erectus, Homo habilis and Australopithecus. The fossil deposition of this hominin  is currently dated by ESR, OSL and uranium-thorium dating methods, between 335 and 236 k.a.Homo naledi provides strong evidence of the coexistence of hominin species in Africa. Who knows what else might be out there?

Everything is broken

Broken lines, broken strings,
Broken threads, broken springs,
Broken idols, broken heads,
People sleeping in broken beds
Ain’t no use jiving
Ain’t no use joking
Everything is broken
Broken bottles, broken plates,
Broken switches, broken gates,
Broken dishes, broken parts,
Streets are filled with broken hearts
Broken words never meant to be spoken,
Everything is broken
Seem like every time you stop and turn around
Something else just hit the ground
Broken cutters, broken saws,
Broken buckles, broken laws,
Broken bodies, broken bones,
Broken voices on broken phones
Take a deep breath, feel like you’re chokin’,
Everything is broken
Every time you leave and go off someplace
Things fall to pieces in my face
Broken hands on broken ploughs,
Broken treaties, broken vows,
Broken pipes, broken tools,
People bending broken rules
Hound dog howling, bull frog croaking,
Everything is broken
Songwriter: Bob Dylan
Songtext v© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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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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