Session XXII-1 : North African and Saharan Archaeology Recovering From the Turmoil

Tiphaine DACHY, Colas GUÉRET, Émilie CAMPMAS, Thomas PERRIN. New data from a forgotten excavation: the early Holocene transition at Saint-Trivier/Chabet el Houidga (Mascara, Algeria)

At the end of the 1950s, during the Algerian War of Independence, Georges Simonnet – a lieutenant in the french army and archaeologist- excavated several test pits at the site of Saint-Trivier (Mascara, Algeria). The site consists of an accumulation of remains of more or less ashy prehistoric occupations and shell levels, located at the edge of a steep ravine that partially carves into it. Three main trenches were excavated with rigorous methods, resulting in the discovery of abundant knapped flints, animal bones and gastropods, as well as several pits and hearths and stone blocks levels. This site is located in a geographic zone away from most of the early Holocene Algerian sites, and therefore the data collected here are particularly invaluable. After the war, the excavator returned to France with his collection, and the latter was left in the family cellar for several decades, before being temporarily handed over to the TRACES laboratory of Toulouse. The examination of photographs, slides, section drawings and written notes enabled us to reproduce the field operations and identify several occupations in a one meter thick stratigraphic sequence. The study of the lithic and bone industry shows a clear evolution in the operative debitage schemes and the typological range of tools. The lowest occupations are probably related to a final Iberomaurusian complex while the main levels can be pertinently compared to a poorly known specific Mediterranean Epipalaeolithic facies in North Africa; the Columnatian. The Bayesian modelling of the radiocarbon dates on bone apatite obtained in the stratigraphic sequence places the first occupations towards 11 ky BC cal., whereas the central occupations date to the second half of the 8th millennium BC cal. These new data from an old excavation thus provide an unprecedented insight into the early Holocene transition in western Algeria.