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New Data from the Site of Ifri n’Ammar (Morocco) and Some Remarks on the Chronometric Status of the Middle Paleolithic in the Maghreb

Part of the Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology book series (VERT)

Abstract

The definition and chronometric position of the Middle Paleolithic technocomplex of the “Aterian” are heavily debated. While for some, the presence of tanged lithics is sufficient to warrant the attribution of an assemblage to the “Aterian,” for others there is more to the “Aterian,” which is, however, defined in different ways. Here, we present thermoluminescence (TL) dating results on the multiple layer site of Ifri n’Ammar (Morocco), with an alternating double sequence of assemblages previously described as “Mousterian” and “Aterian” based on the presence/absence of tanged lithics. All the Middle Paleolithic industries at Ifri n’Ammar are technologically and typologically relatively similar to each other, as well as to the European Mousterian, with the most significant difference being the presence of tanged lithic artifacts in some layers. We prefer to use the term “Middle Paleolithic of Aterian facies/aspect,” instead of assigning it the status of a distinct technocomplex which is used in a chronostratigraphical sense. TL data of 83.3 ± 5.6 ka (weighted; n = 10) on heated lithics is obtained for the uppermost Middle Paleolithic level (Upper OS), which contains tanged lithic tools, as well as personal ornaments, while the underlying layer (Lower OS), which lacks tanged pieces, dates to 130.0 ± 7.8 ka (n = 9). The latter age is also a minimum for its underlying layer, which again contains tanged items, and thus the first appearance of tanging is significantly older in comparison with chronometric data from other sites. The discrepancy between TL and radiocarbon dates from the same levels at Ifri n’Ammar brings into question the reliability of radiocarbon analysis at the limits of the method.

Keywords

  • Aterian
  • Dating
  • Ifri n’Ammar
  • Maghreb
  • Middle Paleolithic
  • Middle Stone Age
  • Mousterian
  • Northwest Africa
  • Thermoluminescence

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Acknowledgments

The samples for TL dating were prepared and measured by S. Albert (MPI-EVA), Neutron Activation Analysis was done by T. Schifer (Curt-Engelhorn-Zentrum Archäometrie, Mannheim), and HpGe-γ-ray spectrometry by D. Degering (VKTA Rossendorf). We thank them profoundly for their help and commitment. Figures 5.2, 5.3, 5.4 and 5.5 are courtesy of DAI Bonn.

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Richter, D., Moser, J., Nami, M. (2012). New Data from the Site of Ifri n’Ammar (Morocco) and Some Remarks on the Chronometric Status of the Middle Paleolithic in the Maghreb . In: Hublin, JJ., McPherron, S. (eds) Modern Origins. Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-2929-2_5

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