Session XIX-1 : Holocene environmental and cultural variability in the Western Mediterranean

Thomas PERRIN, Tiphaine DACHY, Colas GUÉRET et coll. From the Mesolithic to the Neolithic in the western Mediterranean basin: the African impact

Between the 8th and 5th millennia BC, the human societies of the Western Mediterranean underwent several major changes. The first occurred during the seventh millennium with the appearance of the ‘Second Mesolithic’. It can be seen mainly in the material productions of these populations, in particular their stone tool industries, by a fundamental change of production, operating sequences and technical procedures. Deeper changes in the social organization of these societies are also perceptible, in particular through changes in rites and funeral practices. The precise origin of these changes escapes us at present, but they seem to occur initially in North Africa before spreading rapidly along the Mediterranean shores and reaching Western Europe. A second major upheaval took place a few centuries later, with the appearance of the Neolithic. In this extensive process, the southern shores of the Mediterranean should not be ignored. Recent data suggest that, during the 6th millennium before our era, human communities practicing hunting and gathering and having acquired the ceramic technology, occupied parts of the Maghreb. Interactions with spheres of the Impresso/Cardial complex occurred in southern Italy and, at the other end, southern Spain. This seems to be indicated by some characters of the technical systems of the first Neolithic communities of Andalusia. These hypotheses should be tested by close examination of timelines and technical systems. If confirmed, they may offer a possible alternative to strictly European scenarios.

In 2016-2017, the international research program MeNeMOIA, funded by the IDEX of Toulouse, has therefore sought to provide new elements of response to these questions. Several important and unpublished series from Algeria have been studied, particularly from the point of view of lithic industries (technology, typology, use wear analysis). The chronological framework has also been radically renewed with more than 40 new radiocarbon measurements.

This communication will attempt to present in more detail the aims and objectives of this program, its general progress, the main results that we have been able to achieve, and especially the new lines of research and perspectives.