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Jebel Irhoud (Ighoud), Morocco

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Handbook of Pleistocene Archaeology of Africa


The site of Jebel Irhoud/Ighoud (Morocco) is the source of the oldest Homo sapiens fossils so far discovered, dating to c. 300 ka. For this reason, it occupies a central place in current paleoanthropological discussions. The site is located in the commune of Tlat Ighoud (province of Youssoufia, central-western Morocco) on a limestone massif at 31.853 N, 8.870 W, and an altitude of 592 m above sea level. The Irhoud discoveries and their dating raise several questions regarding the geographic and temporal contexts of modern human origins. East Africa was long regarded as the cradle of our species, however, the Irhoud finds challenge this model and point to a more complex geographic and temporal backgrounds of human origins on the African continent. They likely represent a regional population that shared cultural and physical affinities with populations that existed in various regions of the continent. The lithic material recovered from the site is referable to the Middle Stone Age, which encompasses a set of technological innovations linked to the emergence of Homo sapiens and its dispersal across the African continent. In sum, the Irhoud findings not only suggest that the emergence of “modern” Homo sapiens resulted from a long gradual process but also that the evolutionary process was pan-African.

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Correspondence to Abdelouahed Ben-Ncer .

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Ben-Ncer, A., Hublin, JJ., McPherron, S.P., Gunz, P. (2023). Jebel Irhoud (Ighoud), Morocco. In: Beyin, A., Wright, D.K., Wilkins, J., Olszewski, D.I. (eds) Handbook of Pleistocene Archaeology of Africa . Springer, Cham.

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