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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 177–197 | Cite as

Human Technical Behavior in the African Middle Stone Age: The Lithic Assemblage of Porc-Epic Cave (Dire Dawa, Ethiopia)

  • David Pleurdeau
Article

The African origin of modern humans is the center of a large debate. Discoveries of anatomically modern human fossils in Sub-Saharan Africa correlated to lithic and faunal artifacts show that a “modern Behavior” is associated with the emergence of Homo sapiens. Even though the traits to define this modernity are sometimes difficult to apprehend, the study of the Middle Stone Age cultural phase is important for understanding the origin and evolution of the cognitive capacity of modern humans. Porc-Epic Cave in Ethiopia has a long sequence of Upper Pleistocene occupation. Several thousand bone and lithic artifacts were excavated during three major field excavations (1933, 1974, 1975–76). The lithic assemblage reveals that the relationship between humans and their environment is well organized and that the African terminology is sometimes difficult to apply. This paper proposes a synthesis of all the data, studies and conclusions I have made from the analysis of lithic materials from the 1933 and 1975–76 excavations in order to integrate Porc-Epic into the current debate of MSA and modern human Behavior.

L'origine de l'Homme moderne en Afrique fait l'objet actuellement d'un large débat. Les décourvertes de fossiles d'Homo sapiens en Afrique sub-saharienne associés à des industries lithiques montrent que, en parallèle à l'émergence de cette nouvelle espèce humaine, un comportement dit moderne s'est développé. Le Middle Stone Age est donc une période culturelle charnière dans l'évolution comportementale de l'homme. La grotte du Porc-Épic, en Éthiopie, est un témoignage de cette ère avec un remplissage pléistocène supérieur contenant des dizaines de milliers de restes fauniques et lithiques. L'étude de son important assemblage lithique révèle que le rapport de l'homme à la matière et à son environnement est très organisé et que le terminologie culturelle africaine est parfois difficile à utiliser.

KEY WORDS:

Prehistory horn of Africa Proc-Epic cave anatomically modern human middle stone age technical behavior 

Notes

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Scientific and amicable help from several people has contributed to the realization of this study. So, I would like to thank Prof. H. de Lumley for allowing me to study the Porc-Epic lithic material stored in Paris; Sally McBrearty, M.-H. Moncel and P.-J. Texier for their advice; Dr. Yonas Beyene for helping and supporting me; Mrs. Mamitu Yilma, director of the National Museum of Ethiopia (NME) for her cooperation and for her acceptance for the study of the Porc-Epic material stored at the NME; and the Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritages (ARCCH). I would especially like to thank the Fyssen Foundation (Paris), which provided funding for my study at the NME (Addis Ababa). Many thanks also to the anonymous reviewers who gave me much advice and helped me to improve this paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Département de Préhistoire du Muséum National D'Histoire NaturelleInstitut de Paléontologie Humaine-1ParisFrance

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