African Archaeological Review

, Volume 25, Issue 1–2, pp 87–97 | Cite as

Ecological Patterns in the Upper Pleistocene and Holocene in the Jebel Gharbi, Northern Libya: Chronology, Climate and Human Occupation

  • Barbara E. Barich
  • Elena A. A. Garcea
Original Article


Surveys and test excavations in the Jebel Gharbi have brought to light a large quantity of prehistoric sites indicating intensive human occupation from the Upper Pleistocene to the Holocene. Several radiometric dates (standard 14C, AMS and U/Th) provide a detailed framework of the absolute chronology of the local peopling of the area. Generalised Middle Stone Age archaeological materials represent the earliest term of reference in the geological series. Aterian complexes are well-represented, being widely spread throughout the mountain range and in the lowlands. Lower Later Stone Age, or “Dabban”, artefacts are also attested to both geological and archaeological sequences. Human occupation continued with the Upper and Final Epipalaeolithic (or “Iberomaurusian”) and later, with Capsian and Neolithic groups. Permanent and seasonal water springs and raw material sources influenced settlement strategy and selected areas offered particularly favourable conditions and became intensively occupied.


Jebel Gharbi Libya Palaeolithic Aterian Epipalaeolithic Capsian 


Reconnaissances et sondages dans le Jebel Gharbi ont mis au jour une grande quantité de sites préhistoriques qui suggèrent une occupation intensive du Pléistocène supérieur à l’Holocène. Nombreux dates radiométriques (14C, AMS et U/Th) fournissent un cadre détaillé de la chronologie absolue de l’occupation locale de la zone. Matériels archéologiques du Paléolithique moyen représentent le terme de référence le plus ancien dans les stratigraphies géologiques. Les assemblages atériens sont bien représentés, en étant présent soit dans le massif soit dans la pleine. Des sites du Paléolithique moyen ou “Dabbéen” sont aussi connus dans les séquences géologiques et archéologiques. L’occupation humaine continue avec les Upper et Final Epipaléolithique (ou “Ibéromaurusien”) et, après, avec des groupes capsiens et néolithiques. Sources d’eau permanentes et saisonnières ont influencé la stratégie des gisements et des zones sélectionnées ont offert des conditions particulièrement favorables et sont devenu intensivement occupées.



The Italian–Libyan Archaeological Mission in the Jebel Gharbi was founded and is presently co-directed by Barbara E. Barich, of the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. It is supported by grants from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” and the Italian Ministries of University and Scientific Research and of Foreign Affairs. Elena A. A. Garcea, University of Cassino, has recently been appointed as co-director of the mission. We would like to thank the President of the Libyan Antiquities, Dr. Giuma Anag, the Superintendent of the Sabratha Department, Mabrouk Zinati, and the governmental authorities of the Jebel Gharbi for their kind hospitality and support.

Barich wrote the following paragraphs: ‘The Study Area’ and ‘Water Springs’; Garcea wrote: ‘Introduction’ and ‘Chronology and Climate’. Both authors wrote the ‘Final Remarks’.


  1. Barich, B. E., Bodrato, G., Garcea, E. A. A., Conati Barbaro, C., & Giraudi, C. (2003). Northern Libya in the final Pleistocene. The late hunting societies of Jebel Gharbi. Quaderni di Archeologia della Libya, 18, 259–265.Google Scholar
  2. Barich, B. E., & Conati Barbaro, C. (2003). Ras el Wadi (Jebel Gharbi): new data for the study of the Epipalaeolithic tradition in Northern Libya. Origini, 25, 75–146.Google Scholar
  3. Barich, B. E., Conati Barbaro, C., & Giraudi, C. (1996). The archaeology of Jebel Gharbi (Northwest Libya) and the Libyan sequence. In L. Krzyzaniak, K. Kroeper, & M. Kobusiewicz (Eds.) Interregional Contacts in the Later Prehistory of Northeastern Africa (pp. 37–49). Poznan: Poznan Archaeological Museum.Google Scholar
  4. Barich, B. E., Garcea, E. A. A., & Giraudi, C. (2006). Between the Mediterranean and the Sahara: The geoarchaeological reconnaissance in the Jebel Gharbi, Libya. Antiquity, 80, 567–582.Google Scholar
  5. Binford, L. R. (1982). The Archaeology of Place. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 1, 5–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Close, A. E. (1978). The identification of style in lithic artefacts. World Archaeology, 10, 223–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Close, A. E. (1986). The place of the Haua Fteah in the Late Palaeolithic of North Africa. In G. N. Bailey, & P. Callow (Eds.) Stone Age Prehistory: Studies in Memory of Charles McBurney (pp. 169–180). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Ebert, J. I. (1992). Distributional Archaeology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.Google Scholar
  9. Garcea, E. A. A. (2004a). Crossing deserts and avoiding seas: considerations on the Theory of Aterian North African–European relations. Journal of Anthropological Research, 60, 27–53.Google Scholar
  10. Garcea, E. A. A. (2004b). Modern behaviour and cultural complexity in the Upper Pleistocene and Early Holocene in western Libya. Beiträge zur Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Archäologie, 24, 105–124.Google Scholar
  11. Garcea, E. A. A. (2006). Aterians in Libya. In Le Secrétariat du Congrès (Ed.) Acts of the XIVth UISPP Congress, University of Liège, 2001, Section 15: African Prehistory (pp. 41–48). Oxford: BAR International Series 1522.Google Scholar
  12. Garcea, E. A. A., & Giraudi, C. (2006). Late quaternary human settlement patterning in the Jebel Gharbi, northwestern Libya. Journal of Human Evolution, 51, 411–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Giraudi, C. (2005). Eolian sand in the peridesert northwestern Libya and implications for Late Pleistocene and Holocene Sahara expansion. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 218, 161–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kruseman, G. P., & Floeghel, H. (1980). Hydrogeology of the Jifarah, NW Libya. In M. J. Salem, & M. T. Busrewil (Eds.) The Geology of Libya, Vol. II (pp. 763–777). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  15. Kvamme, K. L. (1998). Spatial structure in mass debitage scatters. In A. P. Sullivan (Ed.) Surface Archaeology pp. 127–141. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico.Google Scholar
  16. Kvamme, K. L. (1999). Recent directions and developments in geographical information systems. Journal of Archaeological Research, 7, 153–201.Google Scholar
  17. Lubell, D., Sheppard, P. J., & Jakes, M. (1984). Continuity in the Epipaleolithic of Northern Africa with emphasis on the Maghreb. Advances in World Archaeology, 3, 141–191.Google Scholar
  18. Lubell, D., & Sheppard, P. J. (1997). Northern African Advanced foragers. In J. O. Vogel (Ed.) Enciclopedia of Precolonial Africa (pp. 325–330). Walnut Creek: Altamira Press.Google Scholar
  19. McBurney, C. (1967). The Haua Fteah (Cyrenaica) and the Stone Age in the South-East Mediterranean. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. McBurney, C., & Hey, R. W. (1955). Prehistory and Pleistocene geology of Cyrenaican Libya. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Reeves-Smyth, T., & Hamond, F. (1983). Landscape archaeology in Ireland. Oxford: BAR International Series 116.Google Scholar
  22. Rossignol, J., & Wandsnider, L. (Eds.) (1992). Space, Time, and Archaeological Landscapes. New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  23. Singh, G. D. S. (1980). Structural control of groundwater flow in the Mesozoic sandstone aquifer of the Eastern part of Jabal Nafusah, Libya. In M. J. Salem, & M. T. Busrewil (Eds.) The Geology of Libya, Vol. II (pp. 754–762). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  24. Stafford, C. R. (1995). Geoarchaeological perspectives on paleolandscapes and regional subsurface archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 2, 69–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wiseman, J., & Zachos, K (Eds.) (2003). Landscape Archaeology in Southern Epirus, Greece,. (American School of Classical Studies) Athens: Hesperia.Google Scholar
  26. Yamin, R., & Bescherer Metheny, K. (Eds.) (1996). Landscape Archaeology: Reading and Interpreting the American Historical Landscape. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche, Archeologiche e Antropologiche dell’AntichitàUniversity of Rome “La Sapienza”RomeItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Filologia e StoriaUniversity of CassinoCassinoItaly

Personalised recommendations