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 Several important and unpublished series from Algeria have been studied, particularly from the point of view of lithic industries (technology, typology, use wear analysis).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.



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.


Awrana 2018 – Association of Archaeological Wear and Residue Analysts

Oral presentation – May, 31st:

Colas GUÉRET, Bernard GASSIN, Tiphaine DACHY, Thomas PERRIN, Juan F. GIBAJA, David LUBELL. Understanding the emergence of the Upper Capsian in the 7th millennium: functional perspective on a major moment in the prehistory of Maghreb

In Algeria and Tunisia, at the beginning of the Holocene, the “Capsian” period is characterised by very large sites formed by the accumulation of ashes and land snails on several meters thick. Within them, the hunter-gatherer groups have rejected bones and lithic remains and dug burials showing remarkable funerary traditions. Although these deposits were the subject of numerous publications until the 1970s, research subsequently dried up. It was not until the 2000s that the Capsian benefited from a renewed interest and took advantage of the scientific advances of the last decades, thanks to several publications of reference. The Capsian was finally divided into two groups: the Typical Capsian (Xth-VIIth mill.), characterised by a laminar industry knapped with hammer stone and robust tools (backed knives and bladelets, burins and scrapers), followed by the Upper Capsian (7th-6th millennium), marked by the appearance of the pressure technique for bladelet knapping and by a renewed toolkit (trapezes, triangles and notched blades). At present, there is no consensus to explain the sudden emergence of this new technology: local invention, dissemination of ideas or arrival of new populations have all been mentioned. As part of the MeNeMOIA program (from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic in the Western Mediterranean: the African impact, IDEX Toulouse), this technical break has been approached by lithic use-wear analysis for the first time. The first results, obtained at Kef Zoura D (Algeria), confirm the many differences between Typical and Upper Capsian, both in tools design and use. This communication proposes to cross these functional results with the data derived from the technology and the study of the raw materials in order to address the modalities of the emergence of the Upper Capsian and the socio-economic transformations that it implied.