The North African Neolithic & The Aegean Myths

In this post we present a collection of information sourced from officially published material on the North African Neolithic.

We have consciously selected to cite the selected parts which follow, extracted from officially published  material, in chronological order:

1. From the paper titled “Early and middle Holocene environments and Capsian cultural change: evidence from the Télidjène Basin, eastern Algeria”, by Mary Jackes and David Lubell (2008), we read:

“(Abstract) Interdisciplinary investigations from 1973 to1978 at Aïn Misteheyia and Kef Zoura D, two stratified Capsian sites in the Télidjène Basin, Tebessa Wilaya, Algeria, have shown that palaeoenvironmental changes centred around the 8200 calBP event can be correlated with changes in subsistence and technology traditionally associated with the difference between Typical Capsian and Upper Capsian. We use data from geoarchaeological investigations, invertebrate and vertebrate faunal assemblages, and radiocarbon analyses to characterize the nature and extent of these changes. “

“We propose here that there is continuity across the Typical to Upper Capsian boundary, the transition between them being intensified in response to climatic variation around 8000 calBP. In fact there is very little reason to consider that there was significant cultural or biological discontinuity in the Maghreb in the late Pleistocene and early Holocene.

The only clear evidence for introduction of outside elements in the Maghreb during the early and middle Holocene may be the occurrence of possibly domestic fauna at Grotte Capéletti (Roubet 1979) and Haua Fteah (Klein and Scott 1986); however in both instances this would be late in the sequence and associated with assemblages belonging to the Neolithic of Capsian Tradition or other variants. Despite intriguing similarities between Iberomaurusian lithic assemblages and contemporary.”

“Radiocarbon analyses and changes in faunal and lithic assemblages at Kef Zoura D and Aïn Misteheyia demonstrate a close relationship between environmental and cultural changes centred around the 8200 calBP event or EMHT. Earlier deposits at both sites are characterized by larger invertebrate and vertebrate fauna indicative of wetter conditions associated with lithic assemblages that can be described as Typical Capsian. Later deposits contain smaller fauna indicative of increased aridity and lithics characteristic of the Upper Capsian. Our data lead us to conclude that contemporaniety of Typical and Upper Capsian hypothesized for neighbouring sites and further afield cannot be substantiated. Instead, there is evidence for a succession from earlier Typical to later Upper, as proposed by Vaufrey 70 years ago. At both KZD and AM we see evidence for a transitional phase in lithics, the trend intensifying around the time of the EMHT. There is thus very clear evidence at KZD and AM for continuity between the Typical and Upper Capsian, as appears to be the case throughout the Maghreb.”

2. From the paper titled “Post-Capsian occupation in the eastern Maghreb: implications of a revised chronological assessment for the adult burial at Aïn Misteheyia”, by David Lubell (2009), we read:

“(Abstract) The 1973-6 excavations at Aïn Misteheyia, a Capsian site in eastern Algeria, revealed an
archaeological sequence dated between 9500 and 6000 calBP with evidence for technological and
subsistence change coeval with what we now know to be the 8200 event. A human burial from
the lowest levels at the site which are dated on land snail shell to at least 9000 calBP, is dated
twice on collagen, run 30 years apart by different laboratories using different methods, to 5000
calBP. New TL/OSL dates on fired clay and quartz grains from land snail shell fillings from the
upper 50cm of the deposits, show that this burial is contemporaneous with those upper levels and
is therefore intrusive, despite any stratigraphic proof. The burial provides clear evidence for
post-Capsian use of the site and for previously undocumented mid-Holocene (Neolithic?) groups
in the region, suggesting a need to reassess the cultural sequence for the history of human
occupation in the eastern Maghreb.”

“Whether or not we can say with confidence that there was a Neolithic occupation at Aïn
Misteheyia remains unresolved. What we can say on the evidence available is that it appears
Capsian sites first occupied thousands of years previously continued to be used by later groups, in
part as places at which to bury their dead. This would seem to be a further indication of
continuity during the Epipalaeolithic and succeeding periods in the Maghreb, a scenario we and
others have argued to be the most probable explanation for the archaeological patterns observed.

3. From the paper titled “Phytolith evidence of mid-Holocene Capsian subsistence economies in North Africa”, by Julie Shipp et al. (2013), we read:

“(Abstract) Climatic fluctuations that occurred in North Africa during the early and middle Holocene had a profound impact on the environment of the region and would have required human populations in the area to adapt their subsistence and economic strategies in equally significant ways. Capsian groups, located in eastern Algeria and southern Tunisia from approximately 10,000 to 6000 cal. BP, were among the last North African foragers at a time when other groups were abandoning food collection to engage in food production in the form of pastoralism. Capsian foragers relied heavily on land snails, but we have little information on their use of plant resources, which can be an important indicator of economic adaptation to environmental change. In this study we use phytolith analyses at the Capsian site of Aïn Misteheyia in eastern Algeria to track the changes in subsistence strategies throughout much of the middle-Holocene climatic transitions. Our results show that Capsian foragers exploited plants such as sedges and small-seeded grasses from wetland microenvironments within their home ranges which allowed them to demonstrate robust and resilient resource procurement strategies, and maintain a foraging lifestyle resistant to major fluctuations in climate.”

“Capsian groups, located in eastern Algeria and southern Tunisia from approximately 10,000 to 6000 cal. BP, were among the last North African foragers (Rahmani, 2004). Neolithic economic practices began to appear in the Maghreb from around 6000 cal. BP (Linstädter, 2008; Lubell, 2001; Roubet, 2001), but the extent to which the economy of later Capsian groups was transformed remains unresolved. The appearance, at c. 6800 cal. BP, of non-indigenous domestic ovicaprids associated with a Neolithic of Capsian Tradition occupation at Grotte Capéletti in the Aurès Mountains (Roubet, 2001), suggests that at least some mid-Holocene foraging groups in the Maghreb became pastoralists and may have practiced transhumance.

Most Capsian groups appear to have remained mobile foragers throughout the mid Holocene, with a subsistence regime that relied even more heavily on land snails than elsewhere in the circum-Mediterranean region (Lubell, 2004a, 2004b).”

“Despite debates concerning the chronological and geographical relationship between Typical and Upper Capsian, it is agreed that there was a change in lithic toolkits, the species of animals that were exploited, richness of the shell and bone indus­tries, and territory, all at around 8000/8200 cal. BP. We have shown here that there was probably a change in plant exploitation strategies after this time as well. This change from a traditionally high-ranked resource such as possibly sedge tubers to a tradition­ally lower-ranked resource such as grass seeds is a common strat­egy among hunter/gatherer societies as a response to drying conditions in semi-arid environments (Gremillion, 2004; Kennett and Winterhalder, 2006; Rosen, 2010; Rosen and Rivera-Collazo, 2012; Winterhalder and Goland, 1997). It is an adaptation that allows these societies to maintain a successful foraging lifestyle by reducing risk within a less-predictable environmental regime. Perhaps this significant adjustment in subsistence strategies was one of the factors that allowed Capsian groups to maintain their lifestyle as other North African groups turned to pastoralism. The Neolithic of Capsian tradition emerged about 6000 cal. BP, mak­ing the Capsian the last hunter-gatherers of the Maghreb (Camps, 1975; Lubell, 1984; Rahmani, 2004; Roubet, 2001).”

Neolithic cave paintings found in Tassil-n-Ajjer (Plateau of the Chasms) region of the Sahara

4. From the paper titled “Was a transition to food production homogeneous along the circum-Mediterranean littoral? A perspective on Neolithization research from the Libyan coast”, by Giulio Lucarini (2013), we read:

“It is now commonly accepted that at the time of the North African and Saharan climatic changes
in the Early and Mid Holocene (which brought about essentially humid phases) (Arz et al. 2003;
Kuper and Kröpelin 2006), domesticated plants and animals from the Near East (wheat, barley,
sheep/goats and probably cattle) were introduced into North Africa. In fact, in the Egyptian Western
Desert some of the domesticates came into contact and became part of the autochthonous subsistence system based on cattle raising and on the exploitation of local wild grasses such as sorghum and millet (Barakat and Fahmy 1999; Fahmy 2001; Lucarini 2007; in press a; Thanheiser 2011; Wasylikowa 2001). Yet, when and how the introduction of individual species took place in other regions of North Africa, and particularly in the coastal region, remains extremely uncertain.”

The sporadic nature of the first appearance of Near Eastern domesticates indicated by 14C dates suggests a slow Neolithization process across North Africa rather than a Near Eastern-inspired ‘Neolithic Revolution’ (Childe 1925; 1934). The picture emerging from current research in North Africa is not however homogeneous. While the Holocene cultural sequence of the Egyptian Western Desert is rather firmly established (Barich et al. In press; Barich and Lucarini 2008; Kindermann 2010; Kuper and Kröpelin 2006; McDonald 2009; Riemer 2007a; Riemer and Kindermann 2008; Wendorf et al. 2001), the development of the ‘Capsian’ and the ‘Neolithic of Capsian Tradition’ along the Libyan coast and in the Tripolitania region is far less clear.

“The 8200 BP event had a major cultural impact over different regions of North Africa (Hunt et al. 2010: 23) and corresponds to the shift towards the Neolithic both in the Fezzan region (Cremaschi et al. 2010) and in the Haua Fteah cave.”

“In the Algerian territories, around 5000 BC the Capsian culture was replaced by the so-called Neolithic of Capsian Tradition. As remarked by Lindstädter (2008: 58), this transition, that still deserves thorough investigation, took place under the influence of neighbouring Neolithic cultures – the Mediterranean Neolithic in the northwest and the Saharan in the south. It is in this context that the first elements alien to Maghreb, that is to say the domestic caprines found at Capéletti (Roubet 1979) and Haua Fteah Caves (Klein and Scott 1986), first appeared. Again, in this case, it is not possible to assume that a population replacement took place: the transformation may be due, instead, to a phenomenon of cultural diffusion. Some Capsian groups may already have been pre-adapted to the introduction of domestic species coming from abroad because of their well-developed exploitation and management of some wild species and may thus have played a linking role with the following Neolithic cultures.

Roubet’s research (1968; 1971; 1979) on the Neolithic of Capsian Tradition paid great attention to the palaeoenvironmental and palaeoeconomic aspects of the Capéletti cave and Damous el Ahmar site. It made a significant contribution to clearly outlining Mid Holocene economic and occupational patterns in the region of Aurès, northwestern Algeria. No trace of domestic cereals was discovered in these contexts, but only evidence of exploitation of wild species, such as grasses, bulbs, nuts and fruits. Nevertheless these sites yielded the first clear evidence of pastoral economy in the Maghreb. In particular, the Capéletti cave was inhabited, between c.5500 and 3500 cal BC, by groups whose economy was based on the exploitation of small livestock, especially sheep and goats and, to a lesser extent, cattle. At this point, the connotation of food producing economy was added to the term Neolithic of Capsian Tradition.”

Northern Libya must have functioned as one of the most important links between the Neolithic of Capsian Tradition stricto sensu (northwestern Algeria and Tunisia) in the west, and the Neolithic sphere of the Egyptian Western Desert and Nile Valley in the east.”

“Research in the Jebel Akhdar, the mountainous plateau located in northeastern Libya, has mainly focused on the Haua Fteah, an enormous cave located c.200 km east of Benghazi. The first series of archaeological investigations of the site were carried out by the British archaeologist Charles McBurney (University of Cambridge) during the 1950s. In 2007, the same University, this time under the scientific direction of Graeme Barker, resumed research in the cave. The results obtained so far have confirmed the importance of what is considered to be the longest sequence of human occupation in North Africa throughout the last 100,000 years (Barker et al. 2007; 2008; 2009; 2010). In the Jebel Akhdar, research now focuses not only on the Haua Fteah cave itself, but also on other sites of the massif, such as Hagfet al-Gama, a small cave also located on the coast and about 60 km west of the Haua Fteah. All these sites have provided new critical data about the appearance of Near Eastern domesticates on the Cyrenaican littoral.

Information on the Neolithic occupation of the Haua Fteah cave comes from Layers VIII and VI. Within the stratigraphic sequence, these layers correspond to the middle section of what was defined by McBurney as the Upper Trench. This is a wide trench (c.11 x 10 x 2.5 m) located in the southern area of the cave, whose deposit spans from the Roman period at the top to the Capsian at the base (Barker et al. 2007: 6). (…) The Upper Trench cultural deposit shows a difference in sediment deposition between the historic layer and the Libyco-Capsian and Neolithic layers. Historic deposits are mainly characterized by the presence of burnt animal dung and by the input of sediment resulting from cultivation activities performed outside the cave. The Libyco-Capsian and Neolithic deposits are characterized by a small-scale surface wash of aeolian sand, rockfalls and debris, probably deriving from the discard of domestic waste (Barker et al. 2008: 187; Hunt et al. 2010).”

The emergence of domestic sheep/goats is attested at the Haua Fteah from 5800 BC onwards (Klein and Scott 1986). (…) At the moment, there is no strong evidence of domesticated cereals in the Neolithic layers of Haua Fteah. Pollen analysis seems to show only sparse cereal pollen grains (Hunt et al. 2011: 23). The same kind of analysis, however, has confirmed a more significant amount of domestic crops in the Neolithic layers of the Hagfet al-Gama cave (Hunt, pers. Comm. 2012).

The Neolithic artefacts found at Hagfet al-Gama were associated with faunal remains and shells; domestic sheep and goats were identified among animal bone fragments (Barker et al. 2008: 194). In Cyrenaica, the presence of domestic caprines dating back to the beginning of the 6th millennium BC is also attested for the Abou Tamsa site (De Faucamberge 2009).

“the palaeobotanical analysis carried out on the floral assemblage of the Haua Fteah Trench M, by Morales and van der Veen, testifies to the presence of only wild species in the Libyco-Capsian layers – including Mediterranean shrubs or trees like myrtle (Myrtus communis), the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) and Mastic (Pistacia lentiscus), as well as grasses (the Poaceae family) and vetches (the Vicia genus). In these layers, seeds of domesticated barley (Hordeum vulgare) and wheat (Triticum sp.) had also been detected.

However, direct AMS datings on some of these specimens (and on domesticated wheat and barley macro-remains collected from the Hagfet al-Gama Capsian contexts) revealed that they are recent intrusions (Barker et al. 2008: 208; 2009: 30; 2010: 76-78).

As for artefacts, Layers VIII-VI of the Haua Fteah cave attest a transition towards a true Neolithic tradition. Their features recall, but do not perfectly match the aspect typical of the westernmost Neolithic of Capsian Tradition. Pottery with very simple shapes and decorations made by employing an impression technique was found in the cave starting from Layer VIII. Vessels with hemispheric bases appear in Layer VI, in contrast with the conic ones, which are typical of the Neolithic of Capsian Tradition. McBurney (1967: 312), highlighted various pottery characteristics which may be ascribed to the Neolithic of the Nile Valley and, in particular, to the site of Merimde in the western Nile Delta.”

“Among the lithic artefacts which may infer possible exchanges with the southwestern Levant, there is a tanged, bifacially retouched arrowhead with binding notches (McBurney 1967: Fig. IX.15, 10). This type of point, observed also in the Fayum Oasis and in the Masara C and Bashendi A contexts of the Dakhla Oasis (McDonald, this volume), is very similar to the Levantine Helwan point. The specimen found at Haua Fteah comes from Layer VI, which, according to recently obtained dates (Barker et al. 2009: 36), spans from 4900-3900 BC. This reveals that the presence of this type of tool cannot be directly associated with the appearance of the first caprines in the Haua Fteah area because this took place at least 1000 years earlier.”

“The only item that closely resembles the harvesting tools of the Fayum or the Levantine Yarmukian/Lodian comes from the pre-Greek layers of the Dioscuri temple located in the Agora Quarter of Cyrene. Here, a bifacially retouched blade, showing pronounced serrations on one edge, has been interpreted by Conati Barbaro as a Neolithic sickle element (Luni et al. 2010: 592). (…) Among the knives [found at Haua Fteah.] the concave-convex type manufactured on side-blow flake (McBurney 1967: Fig. IX.10, 4) correspond better to the most typical production of the Egyptian Western Desert rather than to influences from the Levant.”

The spread of the bifacial tradition could be explained in terms of human migration and/or expansion of exchange networks induced by changing rainfall regimes as well as available resources (Riemer 2007a: 523). (…) Although primarily developed in the area of Farafra, Dakhla and the Abu Muhariq Plateau at
the beginning of the 6th millennium BC, the bifacial tradition might have spread almost simultaneously westward where, after passing through Siwa and Bahrein Oases, it reached the North African coast as far as Cyrenaica. Later it also spread eastward, where a similar tradition can be found in the Fayum Neolithic complex. (…) The Holocene contexts of Siwa and Bahrein Oases yielded a lithic assemblage, which greatly resembles the Haua Fteah Early Neolithic one. Here the lithic industry is mainly characterized not only by a high laminar index but also by the abundance of backed bladelets, burins, notches and denticulates. The quantity of bifacial tools should not be disregarded either (Cziesla 1989; 1993; Hassan and Gross 1987). (…) The first appearance of bifacial implements in various areas of the Egyptian Western Desert (Dakhla, Farafra, the Abu Muhariq Plateau) seems to be concurrent with the adoption of domesticated caprines (Barich and Lucarini 2002; Gehlen et al. 2002; Kindermann 2004; 2010). This is also the case with the Haua Fteah cave, where the transition to Layer VIII of the sequence, the introduction of domestic sheep and goats, and the appearance of the first bifacial pressure-flaked tools are all attested since 5900 BC. Nonetheless, if the origin of domesticated livestock from southwestern Asia is certain, the characteristic features of the bifacial techno-complex of the Egyptian Western Desert might be only partially attributed to Levantine traditions.

“Among the regions of the western North African coast, the Tangier region (Morocco) is the one that yielded the most ancient evidence of domesticated cereals. (…) At Ifri Oudadane, a site recently excavated in the northeastern coast of Morocco (Lindstädter 2011; Lindstädter and Kehl 2012), domesticated cereals and pulses have been identified in the Early Neolithic layers (Morales et al. 2013). (…) The introduction of domesticated animals can be ascribed to the same period. Caprines (both sheep and goats) are the first domesticated species to appear in Kaf Taht el-Ghar, followed by pigs and cattle (Ouchaou 2004; Ouchaou and Amani 1997). In the Tingitan peninsula, domestic sheep, pig and cattle are also present in the Neolithic layers of the Mugharet el Khail, Mugharet el’Aliya, Mugharet es Saifiya, Ghar-Khal and Bou-saria sites (Ouchaou 2004). In the Eastern Rif region, domestic sheep are attested in the Chafarinas Islands (Bellver Garrido and Bravo Nieto 2003: 82; Gibaja et al. 2012). (…) Different scenarios can be envisioned for the diffusion routes of the domesticates in the westernmost North African territories: an overland, coastal diffusion or a maritime Mediterranean one. As for goats’ presence in Maghreb, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis of goat breeds showed that Moroccan lineages are not derived from Egyptian ones, and an unidirectional east-west diffusion only via land is not compatible with the high level of diversity in the Maghrebi goat population (Pereira et al. 2009: 2770-2771). Therefore, it is possible, in this case, to advance the hypothesis that along with the diffusion via land, a diffusion by sea may also have occurred. A further hypothesis is that domestic species, which were first introduced into the southern European territories from the Near East, might have been brought to northern Africa along two different routes: the so-called Iberian route, which allowed the diffusion into Morocco through the Gibraltar Strait, and the Italian maritime route, which connected the southern coasts of Sicily with northern Tunisia (Oliveira et al. 2011). According to a study by Zilaho (2001; in press), the Neolithic started earlier in eastern and southern Spain than in the western Maghreb. Dates and material culture indicate that, only after diffusing – probably via cabotage – along the coasts of southern France, Spain and Portugal, the Neolithic spread into the Maghreb.”

“The history of relations between the Nile Valley and Egyptian Western Desert attests an uninterrupted series of exchanges which took place during the Mid Holocene. Around 6200 BC, these exchanges led to the introduction of domestic sheep and goats coming from the Red Sea coast (Close 2002; Linseele et al. 2010) or via the Nile Valley and Fayum (Riemer 2007b) into the oases and other well-watered regions in the Egyptian Western Desert. The numerous 6th-millennium BC campsites documented by the Cologne University team (Riemer and Kindermann 2008) are clear evidence of how cultural traits could circulate between the two eco-systems. Material culture data from the Early-Mid Holocene sites of Siwa and Bahrein Oases (Cziesla 1989; 1993; Hassan and Gross 1987) connote this region as a corridor between the Egyptian Western Desert and the North African coast. Another pathway of diffusion of Near Eastern domesticates towards Cyrenaica could have been the Egyptian and then Libyan Marmarica. Among the domesticates, the oldest specimens of wheat and barley found in northeastern Africa date back to c.4600 cal BC, are currently documented only in the Fayum Neolithic context (Wendrich et al. 2010).”

As for the North African coast as a whole, the only two contexts that have yielded clear evidence of domestic crops in Neolithic layers, the Fayum Oasis to the east and the Tangier region to the west, are located on the opposite ends of the North African coast and therefore have been exposed to different influences. Thus, it is extremely difficult to determine which of the different diffusion scenarios that have been suggested for the southern Mediterranean coast would have been the most likely. Also the so-called phylogeographic approach and the analysis of the existing landraces’ mtDNA show some limits owing to the fact that phylogeographic patterns may not reflect Neolithic events but rather later migrations (Jones et al. 2008; Oliveira et al. 2011)

This difficulty is even greater with respect to the coastal regions of eastern Algeria and Tripolitania. Taking into consideration the different diffusion routes, it is possible to notice that in all suggested scenarios such territories can be considered as the point of confluence or at least a transit area of the arriving domesticated species. However, domestic cereals are clearly scarce in those areas.”

at the current state of research, there seem to be few data that support the hypothesis of a demic diffusion of Near Eastern elements along the North African coast. Given the available data, I think it is worth stressing first of all that the ‘Neolithic package’ (if one may speak of package), does not appear to have entered North African coastal regions as a whole. Moreover, even accepting the hypothesis of the arrival of migrant groups from southwestern Asia, it is apparent that, unlike what happened to the domestic, especially animal, prototypes, material culture components were only marginally moved to the littoral. It is clear from the information presented here, that the local character of the lithic assemblages along the Libyan coast, signal a precise cultural continuity, attested at least during the course of the entire Holocene. With the exclusion of rare elements, such as the so-called Helwan point, the artefacts which are more similar to the Levantine types are limited to the lower Nile Valley and are ascribable in particular to the Fayum, Merimde and Buto-Maadi contexts (Eiwanger 1984; Schmidt 1993; Shirai 2010). Even assuming a Levantine origin of the so-called bifacial techno-complex (Kuper and Kröpelin 2006: 805), it is evident that, although it represents an innovative trait in the assemblages of the Neolithic layers in Haua Fteah, it co-exists with a still strong microlithic cultural substratum of Capsian matrix, therefore specifically African.”

General map of Libya showing the position of the archaeological sites and other locations mentioned in the text

5. From the paper titled “Neolithic of Cyrenaica (north-east Libya): New enlightenments from recent research”, by Elodie De Faucamberge (2015), we read:

“(Abstract) The research lead by the French Archaeological Mission in Libya and the Cyrenaican Prehistory Project (CPP) in the beginning of the 21st century, added to those realized by McBurney in the middle of the 20th century, gathered important information on the Neolithic and the Neolithisation of Cyrenaica, the region of northeast Libya. Despite numerous unknown which will have to be resolved by future investigations, it already appears that pottery production and animal domestication of ovicaprines started very early in that area. These data were obtained for the first time at the site of Haua Fteah, a huge cave excavated in the 1950s and nearly fifty years later by the University of Cambridge. The discoveries made on the new site of Abu Tamsa confirm that the Neolithic began in north Cyrenaica as early as the beginning of the 8th millennium cal BP. The elements we possess indicate that this Libyan region had many traits in common with the eastern regions from where people obtained domesticated animals and shared technological lithic practices. Nonetheless, although the influence of Egypt is present, the local character of the industries dominates. The study of the Neolithic assemblage of Abu Tamsa indicates that there are no visible contacts with the Maghreb Capsian in the west, a hypothesis first supported by McBurney for Haua Fteah’s Holocene industries.

“In the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) and for the open air sites, pottery was often the only element pertinent to a Neolithic prehistoric culture. Pottery is still considered by some authors as a marker of the Neolithic (Ballouche et al., 2012). Research has revealed that its manufacture is sometimes contemporary with husbandry. This is the case in the cave of Kanguet si Mohamed Tahar (or Capeletti cave in Algeria) which remains the oldest reference in the Eastern Maghreb for the beginning of the Neolithic with its dating of 6530 ± 250 BP (7931-6891 cal BP) (Roubet and Carter, 1984). It has sheep/goat, pig, and cattle remains.

Thus, in North Africa pottery arrives at the latest simultaneously with the domesticated animals, but owing to current data, never after. The earliest evidence of animal domestication is found in Egypt. Domestic goat (Capra hircus) coming from the Near East (Gautier, 1990) is attested in Sodmein cave, along the Red Sea coast in a deposit older than 7250 ± 40 BP (8168-7984 cal BP) (Vermeersch et al., 2015) and in the Hidden Village, Farafra oasis at 7251 ± 67 BP (8162e8084 cal BP) (Gautier, 2014). The dating obtained from Abu Tamsa for small livestock domestication is 7275 ± 40 BP (7881-7512 cal BP) which is contemporary with Haua Fteah where domestic goats are attested at 6917 ± 31 BP (7827-7679 cal BP) (Barker et al., 2009). The date of 6800 ± 350 BP (McBurney, 1967) had a very wide interval of calibration: 8380-6983 cal BP. These data are among the oldest evidence of small livestock domestication in Northeast Africa and show an ancient Neolithisation process in Cyrenaica.

At the other end of Africa, in Morocco, the research carried out on the site of Kaf Taht el-Ghar (Ballouche and Marinval, 2003; Ballouche, 2012) reveal that the domestication of cereals occurred at 6350 ± 85 BP (7427-7028 cal BP, dating a carbonized grain of Triticum dicoccum). Shortly after, goats, sheep, pigs, and cattle coexisted with a well-developed and diversified agriculture (Ouchaou, 2012). The neighbouring site of Ifri Oudadane (Morales et al., 2013) has provided the earliest evidence of a Neolithic crop from Northern Africa with the dating of 6740 ± 50 BP (7680-7511 cal BP), coming from a charred lentil (Lens culinaris). Those plants (cereals and pulses) were domesticated before Egypt where agriculture is attested in the mid-7th millennium cal BP in the Fayoum (Wendrich et al., 2010). The recent dates performed on Kom K and Kom W in the Fayoum include 27 between 5570 ± 30 BP (6405-6300 cal BP) and 5720 ± 30 BP (6635-6585 cal BP). Here, these Asian cereals are associated with sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs (Midant-Reynes, 2004).”

“Although animal domestication began early, we do not know when agriculture started in Cyrenaica. Some remains of domestic plants (Triticum durum, Hordeum vulgare and Vicia or Pisum) were collected in Hagfet el Gama and Haua Fteah (Barker et al., 2008, 2009), but direct dates revealed that they were very recent intrusions (Barker et al., 2010). There is no indication of farming in Cyrenaica before the Greek colonization in the 7th century BC (Douka et al., 2014).

“The presence of domestic ovicaprines in Cyrenaica in the first half of the 8th millennium cal BP testifies to an ancient way of diffusion in North-east Africa from the Near East and through Egypt, as the domestic sheep and goat are exogenous to these areas. The dates of 7275 ± 40 BP (7881-7512 cal BP) in Abu Tamsa, 6800 ± 350 BP (8380-6983 cal BP) (McBurney, 1967) and 6917 ± 31 BP (7827-7679 cal BP) (Barker et al., 2009) in Haua Fteah are very close to those obtained in several areas of the western desert of Egypt for the beginning of animal husbandry (Close, 2002; Midant-Reynes, 2004; Riemer, 2005; Gifford-Gonzalez and Hanotte, 2011; Barich, 2014). We have evidence of goat at Farafra Oasis at 7251 ± 67 BP (8162-8084 cal BP) (Gautier, 2014) and at Djara (90/1-6) at 6900 ± 50 BP (7845-7624 cal BP) (Gehlen et al., 2002; Riemer, 2005). These sites have only yielded remains of ovicaprids.

Two ways could have been followed by the people and their flocks to reach Cyrenaica, by the oases of the Egyptian Western Desert or along the Mediterranean coast. For Barich (2014), the goat could have been introduced in Africa after the dry climatic event of 8200 cal BP.

The hypothesis that the goat arrived by a terrestrial way instead of a maritime one is reinforced by the presence of Egyptian elements or influences in the Neolithic industries of Haua Fteah and Abou Tamsa. Lucarini (2013) notices some affinities in Haua Fteah’s industries with the Fayoum and the western oases of Egypt: these are the pressure-flaked tool tradition, a particular type of scalene bladelet, flaked axes and gouges, and the Helwan point, a typical arrowhead of the Levant.

Winged butt tools are frequent in Abu Tamsa’s knapped stone industry, affecting 10% of the tools (especially the flakes). This type of debitage was systematized in the Neolithic of Egypt and the Early Bronze Age in the Near East (Inizan et al., 1995: 163). In Abu Tamsa, the side-blow flakes are very numerous (12% of the total tools). They are quite characteristic of the Neolithic industries of the Egyptian Western Desert where the side-blow flakes have essentially been transformed into sidescrapers. We find these particular items during the 8th millennium cal BP throughout Egypt, in the Fayoum, Siwa, Farafra, Djara, Dakhla and Nabta (Wendorf and Schild, 1980, 2001; Gehlen et al., 2002; Warfe, 2003; Barich et al., 2012).”

“Predynastic-like arrowheads were found during excavations of the Neolithic site of Abbiar Miggi in Tripolitania (Neuville, 1956), and other Predynastic-like tools discovered in the lowlands sites of
south-western Fezzan during the Late Pastoral phase (Cremaschi and Di Lernia, 1998). Some Egyptian elements thus appear to have circulated to western Libya since Neolithic times, but based on current evidence, finished objects in assemblages in Tripolitania and Fezzan show no significant similarities of knapped techniques (in a broad sense) with the east.

Cyrenaica must have had privileged contacts with Egypt, as the distance between the Nile and the Jebel Akhdar could be covered in less than a month. During the 2010 survey near Dernah, side-blow
flakes were found in the assemblages of 10 out of 18 stations from which the material has been studied. Several flint tools showed the combination of the side-blow technique with the hinged and the winged butt. Therefore the side-blow flake seems a good cultural marker of the eastern Neolithic industries of North Africa. Except for these similarities in the lithic industries of Haua Fteah and Abu Tamsa, there is no evidence of eastern imports, and the Neolithic assemblages of the Cyrenaican groups greatly differ from those of western Egypt.”

“While in the 20th century, the trend was to identify major Holocene cultural currents (Sahara-Sudanese Neolithic or the Neolithic of Capsian Tradition), very widespread geographically, the environmental component and local particularities tend to reduce the cultural landscapes of the Neolithic populations of North Africa as in the Near East where, “Each region is associated to its distinctive ecological niche and has its own specific developments. Even though people from various areas were in contact with each other, they were not identical everywhere. Similarities were the consequence of “political” relations and not caused by common origins” (Garcea, 2004: 110). The concept of Neolithisation in North Africa must be defined for every area and at a local scale, including all the innovations (pottery) and food management (animal and/or plant domestication). One of the main future concerns will be to determinate which foreign elements were adopted and why, why others were not taken instead of local ones, with whom the contacts were active and when, and where the influence of a culture and its technological improvements could have spread.

The populations of the Jebel Akhdar lived in a specific environment and developed their own cultural tradition which does not show any visible influence of the west, rather indicating contacts with the east. According to the current data, the coastal Neolithic in Cyrenaica, defined by animal, ovicaprid husbandry, is older than the Neolithic of Capsian Tradition in the Eastern Maghreb, thus reinforcing the idea of different and separated cultures, which is not surprising as the groups lived in different environments and were geographically very remote. Small livestock could in return have spread from Cyrenaica toward Tunisia/Eastern Algeria. The time difference we can observe between those areas (Mulazzani et al., this volume) might be explained by the presence of the large flat region of Syrtica, which was even during Antiquity a natural, political, and cultural frontier between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, with the presence of the Punics in Tripolitania and the Greeks in Cyrenaica. The Sirtican desert was a natural frontier separating the west from the east, with Tripolitania and the Maghreb on one side, and Cyrenaica and Egypt on the other (McBurney and Hey, 1955: 272-273).”

Gueldaman Cave, Algeria

6. From the paper titled “The emergence of the Neolithic in North Africa: A new model for the Eastern Maghreb”, by Simone Mulazzani et al. (2016), we read:

“(Abstract) This paper is focused on cultural and subsistence changes in North African societies during the Early and Middle Holocene, with a special emphasis on the emergence of a productive economy in the Eastern Maghreb. An overview of Western Mediterranean Neolithic spread is first given in order to verify the trajectories evinced in European and North African contexts as well as the different models for neolithisation recently proposed in both contexts. A chrono-stratigraphical, economical and technological analysis carried out from coastal (SHM-1) and inland (Doukanet el Khoutifa and Kef Hamda) Tunisian sites is then proposed. New AMS dates offer insights on Upper Capsian development as well as on the Neolithic transition during the 9th and 8th millennium cal BP. Information gathered at SHM-1 and Kef Hamda indicates the acquisition of some specific Neolithic features such as decorated pottery in a hunter-gatherer context dated to 8000 cal BP. Data from Doukanet el Khoutifa hint at a Neolithic productive economy from 7400 cal BP based on pastoral activities and integrating the consumption of wild animals and plants, with no evidence for agriculture. These data confirm the specific North African pathways identified in other local contexts, where an active role of Epipalaeolithic groups is at the basis of the Neolithic transition through an acculturation process.”

“In contrast to what is observed in the rest of the Mediterranean, the Neolithic evolution in North Africa is characterised by an important development of the Epipaleolithic communities, based on a broad-spectrum subsistence system, economic intensification and increasing sedentism (Marshall and Hildebrand, 2002; Garcea, 2004; di Lernia, 2013). As suggested by available data, hunter-gatherers practiced a successful exploitation of different econiches during the early Holocene climatic and environmental fluctuations (Grove, 1993; Hassan, 1997; Cremaschi, 1998; Cremaschi and di Lernia, 1998b, 1999; deMenocal et al., 2000; Arz et al., 2003; Kuper and Kröpelin, 2006). They developed local adaptive strategies of complex forms of resources management, involving in some cases a delayed consumption of food and the use of pottery. Examples of preadaptations at subsistence production can be interpreted as a necessity of a short-term predictability in food supply (Marshall and Hildebrand, 2002) linked to increasing aridity (Garcea, 2006; di Lernia, 2013). Strategies for the exploitation of wild plants, such as possible cultivation, storage and delayed consumption are evidenced in the El Nabta basin during the 10th-9th millennium cal BP where over 20,000 charred plants belonging to more than 130 taxa are recorded at site E-75-6, most of which are edible, i.e. sorghum and millet (Wasylikowa et al., 1997; Wendorf and Schild, 2002).”

Earliest evidence for the exploitation of domestic plants for all Northeastern Africa is recorded in Nubia at R12, where analysis of dental calculus yielded evidences of phytoliths of near-Eastern cereals (wheat/barley) that were dated to the end of the 8th millennium cal BP (Madella et al., 2014) and later in the Egyptian Fayum depression at Kom K and Kom W, since the mid-7th millennium cal BP (Wendrich et al., 2010). The only context having yielded domestic crops earlier than these dates is at the Western edge of North Africa, in Northern Morocco. Here, at Ifri Oudadane and Kaf Taht el-Ghar, charred seeds of domestic plants are recorded since the mid-8th millennium cal BP (Ballouche and Marinval, 2003; Linst€adter et al., 2012; Morales et al., 2013). Agriculture is introduced here along with domestic animals

“recent studies carried out on Capsian and Mediterranean Epipalaeolithic (sensu Linstädter, 2008) technoeconomical behaviors, allow linking foragers successful adaptive strategies to resource variability. This is also evidenced by the maintaining of an economy based on hunting during the 8th millennium cal BP and the presumable coexistence and interaction with other communities which have already shifted to a productive Neolithic one (Lubell, 1984; Linst€adter, 2004, 2008; Linst€adter et al., 2012; Mulazzani, 2013a). An acculturation model is also supported by the detection of Epipalaeolithic occupational sequences with clear and indisputable acquisition of pottery technology as at Hassi Ouenzga (Linst€adter, 2004, 2008; Linstädter et al., 2012) and at SHM-1 (Mulazzani, 2013b, 2014).”

“Despite the fragmentary information available so far, we can propose some preliminary hypotheses on Capsian-Neolithic evolution in Eastern Maghreb on the basis of new data gathered in central and Eastern Tunisian sites.

At SHM-1, Capsian foragers developed a successful economic strategy with evidence for intensification and techno-economic evolution during the 9th-early 8th millennium cal BP. During the first stage (9th millennium cal BP), Epipalaeolithic groups show a broad-spectrum economy based on hunting, fishing and gathering of plants and molluscs. Storage pits could attest delayed consumption practices and lithic analyses reveal, together with KH, the earlier North African introduction of the pressure technique. This is followed, during the second stage (first half of the 8th millennium cal BP), by a diversification of the hunted species associated with typological and technological changes in lithic production with the introduction of a more sophisticated pressure mode and the increase of a processing oriented toolkit as notches attesting a change in the activities carried out at the site. The appearance of Pantellerian obsidian, of one adze and of a pottery production show the introduction, in a hunter-gatherer context, of some elements usually associated with a Neolithic economy. It is possible that the absence in the last layers of SHM-1 of domestic fauna is the result of a cultural choice and of an optimal management of local resources, during centuries in which other groups in the hinterland may have already acquired domestic herds.

A similar evolution is detected in the contemporary site of KH. Here, Pantellerian obsidian is recorded, the pressure technique is exploited for the bladelet production since the 9th millennium cal BP, while pottery is adopted, in a hunter-gatherer context, since the early 8th millennium cal BP. It is only during the second half of the 8th millennium cal BP that domestic fauna is detected in central Tunisia, at DEK. The introduction of domestic animals at the site started with caprines, as evidenced in other North African regions, at Sodmein Cave (Vermeersch et al., 1994; Linseele et al., 2010; Vermeersch et al., 2015), Nabta Playa (Gautier, 1980; Close, 2002) and Farafra (Gautier, 2014) in Egypt, at Abou Tamsa in Libya (de Faucamberge, 2014; this volume) and in Moroccan early Neolithic sites (Ouchaou, 2012). They are introduced during the first occupations of the site, in a context still dominated by hunting activities and a lithic toolkit rather oriented to food procurement as well as a pottery production of low intensity. During the second stage, pottery increases, cattle and dog appear and domestic fauna is rather exclusive, while lithic production is mainly oriented to flake production for domestic purposes, attesting an important change in the economy and in the functional activities of the site.

Despite limited evidence, the assemblage of recorded plants does not indicate the presence of domesticated crops. The first analysis indicates, on the contrary, a systematic exploitation of acorns, wild legumes and pine nuts in both KH and DEK, a pattern that seems to be common in the Capsian contexts, as evidenced at El Mekta (Morales et al., 2015).”

“Information gathered from Tunisian sites show a coherent picture of local Neolithic development, based on economic intensification and on an acculturation process of Capsian foragers, as evidenced at SHM-1 and KH, both belonging to the same chronological span. The changes observed in the economy and in the artifact production at the beginning of the 8th millennium cal BP, with the presence of obsidian, axes and pottery, provide strong arguments to explain the Neolithic transition in the area.”

“the presence of some Upper Capsian features in a full Neolithic community as DEK suggests continuity of technical behaviors and knowledge transmission, as is the case for the pressure technique in lithic debitage. However, artifacts production follows the evolution and the change of subsistence strategies adapting to new activities, as shown in the lithic toolkit from all the sites analyzed and by the introduction of pottery production. Moreover, different influences are detected in the latter, as a Mediterranean influence can be proposed for decorations of coastal pottery from SHM-1, while a more continental one can be traced in the inland sites.”

“These data confirm Capsian successful economic strategies implying their active role in the Neolithisation process, by adopting step-by-step selected features of the Neolithic “package” coming from multiple influences while evolving to a North African pastoral model.”

The emergence of food-producing societies in Eastern Maghreb is characterized by an active role of foragers, integrating new technologies and subsistence strategies and adapting them to the local traditions and needs. This acculturation phenomenon, implying a readaptation of the economic, cultural and technical system, can be followed in more contexts along North Africa, where pastoral economic practices were integrated with an Epipalaeolithic diet based on hunted fauna and plant gathering. Furthermore, the Neolithic transition in Eastern Maghreb seems, on the basis of available data, more linked to the specific North African trajectories although seafaring and Mediterranean interactions are evidenced, possibly by the spread of pressure techniques, and since the early 8th millennium cal BP, by Pantellerian obsidian.

7. From the paper titled “Middle Holocene hunting and herding at Gueldaman Cave, Algeria: an integrated study of the vertebrate fauna and pottery lipid residues”, by Kherbouche, F. et al. (2016), we read:

“(Abstract) Pathways to food production in Holocene north Africa are complex and varied and, for the human groups living there, are likely heavily influenced by varying factors such as local ecosystems and available resources. Molecular and isotopic analysis of absorbed food residues from 140 pottery vessels from Neolithic Gueldaman Cave site confirms that the exploitation of domesticated animals (sheep and goat), for their carcass fats, and their secondary products, e.g. dairy, began in Mediterranean north Africa in the 5th millennium BC. Findings from organic residue analyses are confirmed by the slaughter profiles from the faunal assemblage which suggest a mixed meat/milk economy.”

“It has long been known that pathways to food production in Africa are complex and varied. In Holocene north Africa, the adoption of domesticates and the existence of pastoralism became an established and widespread way of life long before the domestication of plants, which occurred much later (c. 4000 BP; Gifford-Gonzalez, 2005; Garcea, 2006). Here, it seems likely that the development of subsistence strategies would have been heavily shaped by the unstable, often marginal environments that north African hunter-gatherers lived in.”

“In the eastern Maghreb, the Capsian period, denoted by broad-spectrum hunting and gathering strategies, ends late, at around 7000 cal BP. The Capsian culture is followed by the Neolithic of Capsian tradition (Néolithique de Tradition Capsienne) although the extent to which Neolithic economic practices (such as herding) are adopted by the later Capsian groups remains unresolved (Roubet, 2001; Rahmani, 2004; Linstädter, 2008). Located in eastern Algeria and southern Tunisia, in the regions of Constantine, Gafsa and Tebessa, our understanding of the diet and subsistence practices of these groups is limited to the site of Grotte Capéletti in the Aurès Mountains, Algeria. Here, at c. 6800 cal BP, the people practiced transhumance as part of a pastoral lifestyle, exploiting domesticated cattle, sheep and goats (Roubet, 2001; Roubet, 2003; Lubell et al., 2009).

Molecular and isotopic analysis of absorbed food residues from vessels from Neolithic Gueldaman Cave site confirms that the majority of animal products processed in the vessels originated from ruminant animals, i.e. cattle, sheep or goat. Most of the residues could be unambiguously assigned to a predominantly ruminant carcass fat origin, although dairy products were also identified, confirming that the exploitation of domesticated animals and their secondary products was taking place at this Mediterranean north African site, dated to the Neolithic, at c. 7000 yrs BP (fifth millennium BC). These results confirm that, despite separate pastoral trajectories and different prevailing palaeoecological conditions, the exploitation of milk and milk products occurs contemporaneously (7000 yrs BP, fifth millennium BC) in both Mediterranean and Saharan north Africa. However, whereas sheep and goat seem to appear first at Gueldaman Cave, cattle were the first domesticates in Saharan Africa, followed by sheep and goat once the region became more arid.“

Haua Fteah cave, Libya

8. From the paper titled “The exploitation of wild plants in Neolithic North Africa. Use-wear and residue analysis of non-knapped stone tools from the Haua Fteah cave, Cyrenaica, Libya.”, by Giulio Lucarini et al. (2016), we read:

“It is commonly accepted that domestic caprines from the Near East were introduced into North Africa at the end of the 9th millennium cal BP (Gautier 2014; Linseele et al., 2010; Vermeersch et al. 2015). The new species came into contact with existing subsistence systems mainly based on an intensive exploitation of different wild resouces, mainly local wild grasses, e.g. sorghum and millets (Barakat and Fahmy, 1999; Barker et al., 2010; Fahmy, 2001, 2014; Lucarini, 2014; Mercuri, 2001; Thanheiser, 2011; Wasylikowa, 2001; Wasylikowa et al., 1995). (…) so far, the earliest evidence of North African cattle, which are unanimously accepted as domestic are dated to the end of the 9th millennium BP (di Lernia 2013; Barich 2014).

As for the presence of domestic crops in the Sahara and along the North African littoral, the only two areas that have yielded evidence of domestic crops exploitation during the Mid Holocene are the Fayum Oasis, in Egypt and the northern coast of Morocco (Morales et al., 2013; Wendrich et al., 2010). Both these regions yielded charred macro-remains of wheat and barley dated ca. 7000 to 6700 cal BP. Being located on the opposite ends of the North African coast, these areas have been exposed to different influences, Levantine for the Nile Delta and Fayum, and Iberian for the Moroccan coast.”

“Located in the middle of the North African littoral, the Mid Holocene contexts of Cyrenaica (northeastern Libya) yielded remains of domestic caprines starting from the first half of the 8th millennium cal BP, but no macro-remains of domestic crops have been identified so far (Barker et al., 2010; de Faucamberge, 2015)”

“The results of this paper confirmed the lack of proper farming activities in Cyrenaica during the Mid Holocene, and confirm that the exploitation of wild resources, mainly shellfish (Hill et al. 2015; Hunt et al. 2011), wild game and plants, was not replaced by the introduction of domestic small livestock in the region at the beginning of the 8th millennium cal BP. On the contrary, the picture emerging from the palaeoeconomic data highlights the adoption of a more complex – and successfull – strategy, in which domestic caprines from the Levant integrated a local Epipalaeolithic-tradition subsistence based on an intensive exploitation of wild resources.”

“Moving away from a simplistic focus on the beginning of ‘agriculture’ and from the traditional dichotomy wild Epipalaeolithic Vs. domestic Neolithic, the data so far available for the Jebel Akhdar, but also for the western Lybian coastal range, the Jebel Gharbi (Barich 2014; Lucarini 2013), yielded evidence of a far more complex and articulated pattern of exploitation and interaction with the environment. Our results from the Haua Fteah cave confirmed that North Libyan Mid Holocene groups developed a very successful and low risk economy based on foraging and hunting a broad-spectrum of wild resources, mainly shellfish and plant, integrated with domestic small livestock keeping. This was preferred to only relying on domestic crops and animals, which is a highly risky strategy especially in regions characterized by strong climatic and rain variations.“

9. From the paper titled “The bone industry in the Capsian and Neolithic contexts of Eastern Maghreb: A technological and functional approach”, by Giacoma Petrullo (2016), we read:

“(Abstract) Tools manufactured from hard animal materials were widely used in North Africa both in the Epipaleolithic and in the Neolithic delete. This article discusses how a methodology based on the technological, typological and functional analyses of several Capsian series from the Tebessa region (Algeria) lead to identification of specific techno-economic indicators of bone production suggestive of a vivid cultural exchange among groups living in the same territory. Over time, the application of the same methodology on a larger number of samples might possibly establish whether the technical tradition on animal hard material identified in the Tebessa region is all there is to the Capsian culture or whether it is only one among diversified practices.

The juxtaposition of the data collected for this study with those from the Neolithic bone Riviere
Collection (Capeletti Cave, Algeria) has revealed innovative techno-economic indicators along all the steps of the chaîne operatoire. The partial change that the hard animal material manufacture underwent from the Epipaleolithic to the Neolithic phase is also in line with the transformation by other cultural material categories during the same period. The introduction of allochthonous elements along the North African coast during the Neolithic phase had an impact on the local settlement and economy.”

“The Capsian hunter-gatherer tradition was well established in the Algerian territory. This tradition survived up to the 8th millennium cal BP, right when in neighboring Morocco the first Neolithic components appeared. Caprines, cattle and domesticated plants are but a few of the allochthonous Neolithic resources that, according to Ballouche and Marinval, 2003; Barich, 2014; Kherbouche et al., 2014; Merzoug, 2014 were assimilated by the local Epipaleolithic economy. The above authors have defined a “Neolithic of Capsian Tradition” (NCT), thus emphasizing the continuity between the two periods (Vaufrey,1955; Roubet,1971). New types of chipped and polished stone tools, along with innovative categories of products, such as pottery, tortoise bin appeared during the Neolithic, whereas ostrich eggshells, bones, and teeth continued to be used as raw materials exactly as they were in the Epipaleolithic tradition.”

“The results obtained from the technological analysis on the Capsian corpus revealed a remarkable uniformity within the bone manufacture process in the Tebessa region. This suggests the presence of small groups that moved around according to the mobility patterns of the Capsian groups. During their wanderings they brought around and diffused their technical expertise.”

“The technological homogeneity that characterises bone manufacture in the collections so far analysed distinctively reveals the transfer of technological cultural codes well rooted in the Tebessa region.”

“The analysis of the Capsian corpus allows recognition of a normative and homogeneous production system which was typical of the Tebessa cultural tradition. Conversely, the study of the Riviere pastoral series highlights a transformation in the manufacturing system of hard animal materials. Although the small sample calls for caution in interpreting the results obtained, it is possible to assume that to a certain extent, a transformation in the production processes can be considered unavoidable. Algeria, like other regions along the North African coast, was affected by the arrival of allochthonous elements during the Neolithic period. Because of its geographic location, Algeria may have therefore functioned as a cushion area between the occurring of Neolithization phenomena coming from the west (Alboran region) and from the east (i.e. Near East and Egypt). The transformation in the manufacturing process was the result of cultural exchanges between the shepherds of the Aures and the northernmost communities of Maghreb, which were affected by the Neolithization process. From the Neolithic on, domestic species introduced in Algeria began to replace the wild ones as a source for animal hard material crafting. Innovations affected also the butchering techniques, which, in their turn, influenced the sphere of craftsmanship. At the same time, the development of new activities, e.g. ceramic production, may have encouraged the manufacture of new types of objects or suggested new uses for tools previously meant for different purposes.”

10. From the paper titled “Middle Holocene climate changes and Capsian population dynamic in Central Tunisia during the 6th and 5th millennium BC.”, by Sahbi Jaouadi et al. (2018), we read:

“(Abstract) In the Eastern Maghreb, few data are available regarding the socioeconomic dynamics and associated environmental contexts of the Capsian hunter- gatherers (8th – 5th Millennia cal BC) and the transition towards a production economy. This transition occurs during the Middle Holocene ( ~6200- 2200 cal BC), a period characterized by greater climate variability and aridity trend. The impact of these climate conditions on the ecosystems of central Tunisia would have been important by modifying the distribution and availability of resources. Based on new pollen records on the one hand, and archeological data recently obtained from many sites in central Tunisia (Ain Metherchem, kef Ezzahi, Kef Hamda, Doukanet el Khoutifa, SHM1) on the other hand, we will discuss the potential inuence of the middle Holocene environmental changes on the cultural and economic patterns of the Capsian populations of central Tunisia during the 6th and 5th millennium BC. The palaeoecological data indicates important climate instability during the 6th and 5th millennium with the recurrence of century-scale Rapid Climate Changes (RCCs) arid events, followed, from the middle of the 4th millennium, by a climate millennial trend towards the arid conditions of the Late Holocene (from 2200 BC onwards). During the same period, from the 6th millennium onwards, in many broad-spectrum economy Capsian sites, changes in techno-economic behaviour are recorded with the introduction of ceramics, followed around the mid- 6th millennium by the appearance of domesticated animals. The emergence of a production-based economy during the 6th millennium BC through the selective introduction of certain economic innovations from the “Neolithic package”, might indicate an adaptation to new natural constraints with an arid climate limiting the possibilities for agriculture. However, although some synchronicity between climate events and technological and subsistence strategies changes, the complexity of man-environment interactions invite to consider human societies choices and the different reactions that may have been adopted.”

11. From the paper titled “Ancient genomes from North Africa evidence prehistoric migrations to the Maghreb from both the Levant and Europe”, by Rosa Fregel et al. (2018), we read:

Archaeological evidence suggests that some of the major innovations associated with the Neolithic, such as farming and pottery production, could have been introduced into northern Morocco through sea voyaging by people from Iberia or the central Mediterranean as early as around 5,400 BCE. In fact, some of the Neolithic pottery recorded in North Africa strongly resembles that of European cultures, like the Cardial Early Neolithic (the Mediterranean early farmer culture located in Iberia). However, other innovations, such as some pottery traditions and bone and lithic technical customs, could be the result of in situ development from Epipaleolithic communities, indicating a strong continuity in the local population since the Late Pleistocene. Genetic data from present-day populations suggests that North African ancestry has contributions from four main sources: (i) an autochthonous Maghrebi component related to a backmigration to Africa ∼12,000 y ago from Eurasia; (ii) a Middle Eastern component probably associated with the Arab conquest; (iii) a sub-Saharan component derived from trans-Saharan migrations; and (iv) a European component that has been linked to recent historic movements.”

“Our data suggests that human populations were isolated in the Maghreb since Upper Paleolithic times. Our hypothesis is in agreement with archaeological research pointing to the first stage of the Neolithic expansion in Morocco as the result of a local population that adopted some technological innovations, such as pottery production or farming, from neighboring areas. By 3,000 BCE, a continuity in the Neolithic spread brought Mediterranean-like ancestry to the Maghreb, most likely from Iberia. Other archaeological remains, such as African elephant ivory and ostrich eggs found in Iberian sites, confirm the existence of contacts and exchange networks through both sides of the Gibraltar strait at this time. Our analyses strongly support that at least some of the European ancestry observed today in North Africa is related to prehistoric migrations, and local Berber populations were already admixed with Europeans before the Roman conquest.”

1 Cap Rhir; 2 El Khenzira; 3 Contrebandiers; 4 El Harhoura II; 5 Dar es-Soltan I; 6 Ghar Cahal; 7 Kehf El Hammar; 8 Hattab II; 9 Ifri El Baroud; 10 Ifri n’Ammar; 11 Kifan Bel Ghomari; 12 Taforalt; 13 Le Mouillah; 14 Rachgoun; 15 Columnata; 16 Rassel; 17 El Hammel; 18 El-Onçor; 19 Afalou; 20 Tamar Hat; 21 Taza; 22 Ouchtata; 23 Medjez II; 24 Dakhlat es-Saâdane; 25 Aïn Naga; 26 Khanguet El-Mouhaâd; 27 Aïn Misteheyia; 28 Relilaï; 29 Kef Zoura D; 30 ElMekta.

12. From the Collective Work titled “Algeria and Transatlantic Relations”, from Part1, Chapter 1 titled “7,000 Years Ago: The First Berber”, by Rachida Addou (2019), we read:

We have been typically taught that the Fertile Crescent is “The cradle of civilization” or at least the earliest. However, many scholars now believe that there is not a single cradle but several, the first
cradle still being debated.

The earliest signs of civilization appeared in the Neolithic Age with the transition from Nomadic hunter-gatherer communities to sedentary living. This period was marked mainly by the onset of agriculture and the domestication of animals. (…) For the majority of prehistorians, most of the African continent is not associated with the term Neolithic. However the Sahara, more specifically Central Sahara, is the indisputable exception. (Hugot, 1980) The Sahara as we know it today was not always an arid desert. During the Holocene epoch approximately 11,700 BP, which followed the last major glacial epoch, climate fluctuations transformed the Sahara into a humid, fertile, and populated region.

Research data from human paleontology, historical linguistics, archaeology and more recently genetics have shown that the ancestors of the first settlers of Central Sahara appeared in the Maghreb 11,000 to 10,000 years BP coinciding with the humid climate of the Holocene epoch and the beginning of the Neolithic Age.”

“The most distant ancestors of the Berbers are of pure African descent, but they are already mixed. Some, the Mechtoids, are strictly indigenous to the Maghreb; others, the Proto-mediterranean Capsians, arrived on the shores of the Mediterranean at a time so far back in Prehistory that the question of whether they are foreign or not becomes meaningless. (Malika Hachid)”

“The Mechtoid, an early modern version of Homo Sapiens Sapiens equivalent to Homme de Cro-Magnon in Europe, was identified in North Africa at the end of the Palaeolithic and later Neolithic (approximately 22,000 BP to 10,000 BP). Named after Mechta El-Arbi site in Algeria, the Mechtoids initiated the Ibero-Maurusian industry, using lithic technology to produce tools from various types of stone. (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Later, around 10,000 BP, another type of modern Homo sapiens appeared, the Proto-meditteranean Capsians, named after the city of Gafsa in Tunisia, (Capsa in Latin).

The Capsian industry progressively replaced the Ibero-Maurusian, bringing more advanced and refined techniques. “The Capsian was a microlithic (tiny-flaked-blade) tool complex. It differed from the Ibero-Maurusian, however, in displaying a far more varied tool kit distinguished by large backed blades and burins in its earlier phase and a gradual development of geometric microliths later.” (Encyclopedia Britannica).

To date, the origins of the Proto-Mediterranean Capsians are still debated. Some evidence suggests that they migrated from the Levant where Natufians, men with similar features, were identified. Nonetheless, Malika Hachid, acclaimed researcher specializing in the Prehistory and Protohistory of the Sahara, demonstrates in her book The First Berbers that the “proto-Mediterranean Capsians arrived on the shores of the Mediterranean at a time so far back in Prehistory that the question of whether they are foreign or not becomes meaningless.”

“an undeniable argument is that Mechtoids and Proto-mediterraneans were two very different types of man with very distinct features, implying that the latter did not evolve from the Mechtoids. Over time, Mechtoids features softened, not owing it to the Proto-Mediterranean Capsians- no evidence of miscegenation between the two groups- (Gabriel Camps) but probably as a result of the interaction of genes and environment. Eventually, the Proto-Mediteranean Capsian type became prevalent.”

“However, one should not ignore that Mechtoids and Proto-Mediteranean Capsians lived side by side and shared habitats, influencing each other on many levels for a few millennia before becoming the Bovidian Proto-Berbers, the very first Berber settlers of Central Sahara, 7000 BP”

“ “[…] Maghreb, is only marginally considered in the debates on the Mediterranean as a possible route for the transmission and innovation of Neolithic features. North Africa, as an interactive area where the Saharan and Mediterranean influences operate and produce a mosaic of cultural behaviors, is still underestimated.” (Mulazzani S., et al) researchers were able to describe and retrace “the most brilliant prehistorical civilization of the Sahara” (M.Hachid) by bringing evidence together from archeological sites, funerary monuments but mostly from the well preserved prehistoric cave paintings and engravings of the Tassili N’Ajjer (“the plateau of rivers” in Berber ).

For a long time, pottery was associated with the beginning of Neolithic period in a given site. Approximately 12,000 to 11,000 BP, pottery was discovered in the Sahara between the Hoggar and the Nile (Close, 1995; Garcea, 2006; Huysecom et al., 2009) long before the Levant (approximately 8,000 to 7,000 BP) where agriculture preceded the art of ceramics.

At the beginning of the Holocene period, climatic fluctuations across the Sahara affected the availability of resources leading semi-sedentary communities of hunter-gathers to exhibit Neolithic behaviours. Their economy was mainly based on hunting, fishing, and gathering of plants and mollusks. In order to survive, these communities developed adaptive strategies to manage resources involving delayed consumption practices (underground storage pits) and the use of pottery. (Mulazzani S., et al).

As the climatic conditions became more pleasant in the Central Saharan massifs over the next millennia, immigrants from different parts of the Sahara gathered in the highlands taking advantage of the local resources and sharing each other’s know how. With the abundance of wild plants, cereals, fish, and the flowing rivers of the Tassili, the Igharghar, and the Tafessasset (of which only fossils remain today), the first sedentary communities of Central Sahara were born.

Between the 8,000 and 7,000 BP, domestication of cattle, goats, and sheep transformed their economy and their way of life. The first settlers of Central Sahara have been named The Bovidian Proto-Berbers referring to the beginning of the “Bovidian” or “Pastoral” times.”

“To date, researchers are still debating the onset of agriculture in Central Sahara. Gabriel Camps shows evidence of early agriculture in his excavations of Amekni. “The abundance of grinding bowls on the surface of the granitic croup and the large number of wheels and grinders collected in the archaeological layer” (Gabriel Camps) as well as pollen grains relating to millet found deep in the ground, were dated back to 8,000 BP. (Marianne Cornevin).

Others claim that wild plants, such as sorghum and millet, were readily available due to the humidity of the Sahara, and were abundant enough to feed small populations; therefore, the need to cultivate crops at that time did not make sense. (J.D. Clark,1976) Nonetheless, based on strong evidence suggesting millet cultivation in the Tichitt (Mauritania), scholars confirm that agriculture developed in Western Sahara around 3,600 BP. (Munson).”

13. From the paper titled “New Light on the Silent Millennia: Mediterranean Africa, ca. 4000–900 BC”, by Giulio Lucarini et al. (2020), we read:

“(Abstract) The so-called neolithization process (ca. 6000/5500–4000 BC) in Mediterranean Africa and the Sahara has been increasingly researched in recent years. In contrast, relatively little is known, especially in Mediterranean Africa, of the period between the beginnings of irreversible climatic deterioration in the Sahara, around 4000–3500 BC, and the onset of Iron Age to broadly Classical times. Why, with the exception of the Nile Delta, is our knowledge of the period between the fourth millennium BC and the threshold of the first Iron Age Phoenician and Greek colonies so limited? To what extent can this information gap be attributed to aridification in the Mediterranean zone, or is it rather a product of the failure to look for the right kinds of materials and sites, and of their relative visibility? In order to answer these questions, this paper focuses specifically on Mediterranean Africa (with the exception of Egypt) from about 4000 BC to ca. 900 BC. It is mainly based on the data made available on MedAfriCarbon, a spatially linked, publicly accessible database and web app comprising the 14C chronometric evidence from Mediterranean Africa from 12,000 to 600 cal. BC, with details of associated cultural and economic information. Analysis of these data shows that most of Mediterranean Africa beyond the Nile was occupied to different extents throughout the 3000-year period covered in this article and that, with a few important exceptions, the robust and resilient nature of local, mainly pastoral, ways of life militated against a shift towards a fully agricultural economy.”

“most of Mediterranean Africa witnessed some form of occupation during the three thousand years that concern us here. It is not clear whether the enduring gaps in the evidence relate to the nature of archaeological research emphasis or the serendipities of exploration. Clearly, the precise ways of life that sustained people in each region during this period have been under-explored. Domesticated animals, mainly caprines and cattle (all already present during the sixth-fifth millennia BC), remained widely attested throughout the region. Yet, between the sixth and fifth millennium BC in the Western Maghreb, and Althiburos, several thousand years later at the other end of the Maghreb, there is only minimal evidence of domestic crops or a full mixed farming economy. The strongest candidate for a continuous farming trajectory is undoubtedly the Western Maghreb, especially its Atlantic coast and hinterland, a region with earlier signs of agriculture, and later the notable investment in silos and grinding stones at the large settlement site of Oued Beht. This region was also in contact with Iberian groups during the third and second millennia BC. At the other extreme, it remains entirely plausible that farming only reached Cyrenaica after the end of our period via overseas Aegean colonists, unless elements filtered in slightly earlier from the Nile via Marmarica

“there is a dearth of positive proof that crops expanded from the Western Maghreb to become established across the Central and Eastern Maghreb, and therefore a real possibility that these areas remained, for much of our period, pastoral rather than agricultural. If so, this raises the question as to what the mixed farming at Althiburos, which narrowly but decisively pre-dates the foundation of Carthage, actually represents. Is it the late phase of an otherwise invisible pan-Maghrebian farming, that extended unbroken from the mid-sixth to early first millennium BC? Or is it a relatively young and intrusive phenomenon that was associated with the widespread dolmen distribution in this same region, and therefore derived from an influx of farming groups from the northern side of the Sicilian strait during the second millennium BC—in other words, a separate overseas introduction preceding the better known Phoenician-Greek horizon? If so, what was the chronology of its internal and westward spread across the Maghreb, before and after the foundation of the initially seaward-oriented Carthage?

And if the sixth- to fifth-millennium BC farmers failed in the long-term to spread throughout Mediterranean Africa, why was this the case? In the east, the answer is likely to lie among the specific adaptations made in the aquatic conditions of the Nile corridor, and their non-transferability to the drier landscapes to the immediate west. However, such arguments are less convincing for the Maghreb, given its broad environmental similarity to much of the remaining Mediterranean, from which its first crops arrived, and the fact that (unlike the Sahara, and also parts of the littoral zone in eastern Mediterranean Africa, Cyrenaica excepted) later Holocene aridification was not extreme enough to push it beyond the potential scope of agriculture.”

“A more likely reason for the delayed agricultural takeoff in most of Mediterranean Africa is the robust and resilient nature of local hunter-gatherer and pastoral groups. It appears that by the time exogenous crops became locally available, Mediterranean Africa had for so long been in the orbit of the Saharan foraging and pastoral world that most of its inhabitants effectively rejected agricultural lifestyles. Conversely, by the time the grand tradition of Saharan societies was destroyed by desertification, this choice may have become in effect locked in until new, intrusive farmers reappeared several millennia later.”

Mediterranean Africa with the regions mentioned in the text

NovoScriptorium: Let us now add in the discussion some interesting Mythological references.

First excerpt from Pindar, the lyric poet.

Isthmian 4: For Melissus of Thebes Pancratium

Ancient Greek: ” Θηβᾶν ἀπὸ Καδμεϊᾶν μορφὰν βραχύς, ψυχὰν δ᾽ ἄκαμπτος, προσπαλαίσων ἦλθ᾽ ἀνὴρ τὰν πυροφόρον Λιβύαν, κρανίοις ὄφρα ξένων ναὸν Ποσειδάωνος ἐρέφοντα σχέθοι, υἱὸς Ἀλκμήνας: ὃς Οὐλυμπόνδ᾽ ἔβα, γαίας τε πάσας καὶ βαθύκρημνον πολιᾶς ἁλὸς ἐξευρὼν θέναρ, ναυτιλίαισί τε πορθμὸν ἁμερώσαις.”

English: “And yet once there went from Thebes, Cadmus’ city, a hero short in stature but unflinching in spirit. This hero went to the house of Antaeus in grain-bearing Libya, to keep him from roofing Poseidon’s temple with the skulls of strangers, Alcmena’s son. He went to Olympus, after he had explored all lands and the high-cliffed hollow of the gray sea, and had tamed the straits for sailors.”

NovoScriptorium: ‘Alcmena’s son’ was Hercules. Pindar claims that he went to every land and sea. Well, most likely this is a poetic exaggeration, but denotes that Hercules/the Aegeans had travelled in many different lands – our best guess is that they did it mainly through the Sea. Hercules, according to this excerpt (among many others), had been a pioneer explorer, paving the way for future explorers. It is almost certain that he ‘went to Olympus’, i.e. he was deified by the people of his time, because of such deeds. Antaeus was the son of Poseidon and Gaia, and as the Myth says he was building a temple to his father usings the skulls of his opponents, who where beaten earlier in a ‘wrestling fight’ (this is mentioned in other ancient sources). It is not clear whether Antaeus had been of Aegean origin himself, but the reference to Poseidon as his father and god may suggest something like this. His mother was the Earth (Gaia). This, even though it seems very ‘general’, it might want to denote that he had been the product of a local ‘Libyan’ woman and a man who came from the Sea (Poseidon). As we have examined in a previous post, some of the Myths of  ‘the pioneer explorer/conqueror’ Hercules refer to events that took place somewhere during the Neolithic Age. The ancient authors had used the same name for many different people [about 43, as mentioned by Athanasios Stageiritis* in his memorable work “Ogygia or Archaeology” (Ωγυγία ή Αρχαιολογία), Vol. 4, p. 487]. We cannot always be certain about the actual era described, but using comparative data we can, sometimes, come up with a good estimate. Whatever the exact time, Pindar here suggests that during Hercules’ great ‘Global’ Expedition, he also passed from ‘Libya’. As we have discussed in a previous post, this seems to have occured during the Neolithic Age**. Therefore, what this Myth suggests is that during the Neolithic Age the Aegeans had visited ‘Libya’ (modern North Africa, excluding Egypt). What the Archaeological record shows as intrusions from the ‘Neolithic package’ along the shores of North Africa gathers then a good possibility of had been of Aegean origin. This does not mean that the domesticated species were necessarily of Aegean origin but that the ‘middle men’ who transferred the innovations from the Near East to ‘Libya’ were of Aegean origin. Excavations in Thebes, Greece, suggest that the earliest occupation of the place dates to the Late and Final Neolithic (5300–3200 B.C.). Therefore, if Aegeans from Thebes moved towards ‘Libya’ during the Neolithic, they did it in this time interval. 

*Athanasios Stageiritis was Professor of Greek Language at the Caesar’s Royal academy of Eastern languages Austria, Vienna (in German: Kaiserlich-königliche Akademie für Orientalische Sprachen). His memorable five-volume book ‘Ogygía’ was first published in Vienna during 1815.

**We have strong indications that analogous ‘expeditions’, under the command of ‘Hercules’ -or with ‘Hercules’ participating in them- took place during several different epochs. As we shall see below, there had been one during the Bronze Age, too.

Second and Third excerpt also from Pindar.

Pythian 4: For Arcesilas of Cyrene chariot race

Ancient Greek: “σάμερον μὲν χρή σε παρ᾽ ἀνδρὶ φίλῳ στᾶμεν, εὐΐππου βασιλῆϊ Κυράνας, ὄφρα κωμάζοντι σὺν Ἀρκεσίλᾳ, Μοῖσα, Λατοίδαισιν ὀφειλόμενον Πυθῶνί τ᾽ αὔξῃς οὖρον ὕμνων, ἔνθα ποτὲ χρυσέων Διὸς αἰητῶν πάρεδρος, οὐκ ἀποδάμου Ἀπόλλωνος τυχόντος, ἱέρεα χρῆσεν οἰκιστῆρα Βάττον καρποφόρου Λιβύας, ἱερὰν
νᾶσον ὡς ἤδη λιπὼν κτίσσειεν εὐάρματον πόλιν ἐν ἀργεννόεντι μαστῷ, καὶ τὸ Μηδείας ἔπος ἀγκομίσαι ἑβδόμᾳ καὶ σὺν δεκάτᾳ γενεᾷ Θήραιον, Αἰήτα τό ποτε ζαμενὴς παῖς ἀπέπνευσ᾽ ἀθανάτου στόματος, δέσποινα Κόλχων. εἶπε δ᾽ οὕτως ἡμιθέοισιν Ἰάσονος αἰχματᾶο ναύταις: ‘ κέκλυτε, παῖδες ὑπερθύμων τε φωτῶν καὶ θεῶν: φαμὶ γὰρ τᾶσδ᾽ ἐξ ἁλιπλάκτου ποτὲ γᾶς Ἐπάφοιο κόραν ἀστέων ῥίζαν φυτεύσεσθαι μελησιμβρότων Διὸς ἐν Ἄμμωνος θεμέθλοις. ἀντὶ δελφίνων δ᾽ ἐλαχυπτερύγων ἵππους ἀμείψαντες θοάς, ἁνία τ᾽ ἀντ᾽ ἐρετμῶν δίφρους τε νωμάσοισιν ἀελλόποδας.”

English: “Today you must stand beside a beloved man, Muse, the king of Cyrene with its fine horses, so that while Arcesilas celebrates his triumph you may swell the fair wind of song that is due to the children of Leto and to Pytho, where once the priestess seated beside the golden eagles of Zeus, on a day when Apollo happened to be present, gave an oracle naming Battus as the colonizer of fruitful Libya, and telling how he would at once leave the holy island and found a city of fine chariots on a shining white breast of the earth, and carry out in the seventeenth generation the word spoken at Thera by Medea, which once the inspired daughter of Aeetes, the queen of the Colchians, breathed forth from her immortal mouth. She spoke in this way to the heroes who sailed with the warrior Jason: Hear me, sons of high-spirited men and of gods. For I say that from this wave-washed land one day the daughter of Epaphus will have planted in her a root of cities that are dear to men, in the temple of Zeus Ammon*. Instead of short-finned dolphins they will have swift horses, and reins instead of oars, and they will drive storm-footed chariot teams.”

*NovoScriptorium: The translation here is not accurate enough. A better translation of the ancient text would be: “the daughter of Epaphus (that is, Libya) will plant roots, for cities beloved to mortals, in the foundations of Zeus Ammon“. After this crucial correction, what we actually learn from this excerpt is that

a) there had been links between the Aegeans and North Africans long before the historical colonization of Cyrenaica during the 7th c. B.C. . The reference to 17 generations distance between events (if we assume 3 generations per century, this gives 561 years) shows that the contacts between the Aegean and North Africa were taking place from (one of the oldest, if not the oldest) Hercules’ time (not necessarily the name of an actual individual but a ‘glorious name’ used by the Mythologists in order to describe various ‘glorious deeds’ of the Aegeans in the course of Time), through the Argonauts’ time (when we find again a reference to ‘Hercules‘ that, obviously, cannot refer to the same individual of the Neolithic epoch whose deeds we have examined in previous posts, something which strengthens our conclusion/assumption that the name must have been  mostly used as a ‘code name’ in order to describe ‘glorious deeds’ of the Aegeans, of several different epochs).

So, if we are correct in the above, contacts between the Aegean and North Africa should date at least back in the Neolithic. There were also contacts during the Bronze Age (13th c. B.C.), and all ended up in the historically well known and documented colonization of the 7th c. B.C. . The Archaeological record confirms that there had been allochthonous intrusions in the Cultures of North Africa already since the Neolithic. Most likely, it was ‘not only the Aegeans, but them, too‘. The big difference with other possible candidates is that the Aegeans have recorded these very ancient visits in their Mythology (‘National History’, as themselves claimed). The findings which suggest the existence of  naval contact through the Mediterranean during the Neolithic, almost certainly -we have explained the reasons in a recent post- had been of Aegean origin. During the Bronze Age almost all the Mediterraneans could navigate properly, with the Aegeans and Punics excelling in the field. 

b) the Myth clearly says that Civilization in ‘Libya’ and Egypt shared the same roots. We may say that this is partially evident in the Archaeological record for Eastern North Africa (i.e. Egypt and Eastern ‘Libya’).

Ancient Greek: “φάτο δ᾽ Εὐρύπυλος Γαιαόχου παῖς ἀφθίτου Ἐννοσίδα ἔμμεναι: γίγνωσκε δ᾽ ἐπειγομένους: ἂν δ᾽ εὐθὺς ἁρπάξαις ἀρούρας δεξιτερᾷ προτυχὸν ξένιον μάστευσε δοῦναι. οὐδ᾽ ἀπίθησέ νιν, ἀλλ᾽ ἥρως ἐπ᾽ ἀκταῖσιν θορὼν χειρί οἱ χεῖρ᾽ ἀντερείσαις δέξατο βώλακα δαιμονίαν. πεύθομαι δ᾽ αὐτὰν κατακλυσθεῖσαν ἐκ δούρατος ἐναλίαν βᾶμεν σὺν ἅλμᾳ ἑσπέρας, ὑγρῷ πελάγει σπομέναν. ἦ μάν νιν ὤτρυνον θαμὰ λυσιπόνοις θεραπόντεσσιν φυλάξαι: τῶν δ᾽ ἐλάθοντο φρένες: καί νυν ἐν τᾷδ᾽ ἄφθιτον νάσῳ κέχυται Λιβύας εὐρυχόρου σπέρμα πρὶν ὥρας: εἰ γὰρ οἴκοι νιν βάλε πὰρ χθόνιον Ἄιδα στόμα, Ταίναρον εἰς ἱερὰν Εὔφαμος ἐλθών, υἱὸς ἱππάρχου Ποσειδάωνος ἄναξ, τόν ποτ᾽ Εὐρώπα Τιτυοῦ θυγάτηρ τίκτε Καφισοῦ παρ᾽ ὄχθαις: τετράτων παίδων κ᾽ ἐπιγινομένων αἷμά οἱ κείναν λάβε σὺν Δαναοῖς εὐρεῖαν ἄπειρον. τότε γὰρ μεγάλας ἐξανίστανται Λακεδαίμονος Ἀργείου τε κόλπου καὶ Μυκηνᾶν.”

English: “He said that he was Eurypylus, the son of the holder of the earth, the immortal earth-shaker Poseidon. He realized that we were hurrying on our way, and straightaway with his right hand he snatched up a piece of earth, the first thing to come to hand, and sought to present it as a gift of hospitality. He did not fail to persuade Euphemus; the hero leapt down onto the shore, and, pressing his hand in the hand of the stranger, received the divine clod of earth. But now I learn that it was washed out of the ship into the sea by a wave at evening, following the watery tide. Truly, I often urged the sailors who relieve their masters from toil to guard it; but their minds were forgetful, and now on this island the immortal seed of spacious Libya is washed ashore before the proper time. For if only Euphemus had gone to his home in holy Taenarus and cast the clod beside the earthly mouth of Hades- Euphemus the son of lord Poseidon, ruler of horses, whom once Europa the daughter of Tityus bore beside the banks of the Cephisus- the blood of the fourth generation descended from him would have taken possession of that broad continent together with the Danaans; for then they will be uprooted from Lacedaemon and the Argive gulf and Mycenae*.”

*NovoScriptorium: There is a need to correct the translation here. What the ancient text says is that, if the ‘immortal seed of spacious Libya‘ was not lost ‘before the proper time‘ (whatever this means) and in the ‘wrong place’, i.e. away from Euphemus’ homeland (evidently, the Peloponnese), then the Danaans (all the inhabitants of Lacedaemon, the Argive gulf and Mycenae) would have migrated, all of them, in Libya! What the Myth actually informs us of is that the autochthonous Aegeans of the Peloponnese (i.e. the Danaans – Danaan/Δαναός = born of the earth = authochthonous) were about to abandon their homeland for ‘Libya’ and something happened (certainly not the loss of ‘a piece of earth’, as the Myth poetically says) that changed their plans. Two questions arise immediately;

a) the reference to ‘Danaans’, ‘Lacedaemon’, the ‘Argive gulf’ and ‘Mycenae’ is a direct reference to the Bronze Age civilization of the Peloponnese? Most certainly, it should be. Otherwise some other Mythological names would be used to denote other, older, epochs. The reference to ‘Mycenae‘ leaves no doubt really.

b) what could have taken place so ‘life-changing’ that a whole people would chose to abandon their homeland for another, fertile and with great prospect of prosperity, land? We believe that the most reasonable thing one can assume is that this Mythological story refers to the time when severe climatic changes occurred in the wider Eastern Mediterranean region, and of course in the Aegean and the Peloponnese, during the Bronze Age that eventually lead to the collapse of the Bronze Age societies all over the place, with very few exceptions. Hunger is a very good reason for a people to move towards any other land that could provide them sufficient supplies for survival. As a matter of fact, such population movements never stopped in the History of Man. Of course, we cannot know what exactly happened and the ‘migration plan’ was abandoned.

The ancient Greek authors link Euphemus with the Argonautic Expedition. The Myths (e.g. Apollonius of Rhodes, who provides a lot of interesting information about ‘Libya’ which we are going to present in a future post) are clear that the Minyans participated in it very energetically. Now we know (from the Archaeological record combined with the references of the ancient authors), that the Minyans were indeed one of the Aegean Kingdoms of the Bronze Age. In other words, there is hardly any doubt that the Myth refers to the Bronze Age.

(Source for the ancient Greek text, Source for the English translation)


Fourth excerpt from Plutarch.

The Parallel Lives, The Life of Sertorius, 9.4-9.5

(Source for the ancient Greek text, Source for the English translation)

Ancient Greek: “Τιγγῖται δὲ μυθολογοῦσιν Ἀνταίου τελευτήσαντος τὴν γυναῖκα Τίγγην Ἡρακλεῖ συνελθεῖν, Σόφακα δ’ ἐξ αὐτῶν γενόμενον βασιλεῦσαι τῆς χώρας καὶ πόλιν ἐπώνυμον τῆς μητρὸς ἀποδεῖξαι· Σόφακος δὲ παῖδα γενέσθαι Διόδωρον, ᾧ πολλὰ τῶν Λιβυκῶν ἐθνῶν ὑπήκουσεν, Ἑλληνικὸν ἔχοντι στράτευμα τῶν αὐτόθι κατῳκισμένων ὑφ’ Ἡρακλέους Ὀλβιανῶν καὶ Μυκηναίων. ἀλλὰ ταῦτα μὲν ἀνακείσθω τῇ Ἰόβα χάριτι, τοῦ πάντων ἱστορικωτάτου βασιλέων· ἐκείνου γὰρ ἱστοροῦσι τοὺς προγόνους Διοδώρου καὶ Σόφακος ἀπογόνους εἶναι.”

English: “Now, the people of Tingis have a myth that after the death of Antaeus, his wife, Tinga, consorted with Heracles, and that Sophax was the fruit of this union, who became king of the country and named a city which he founded after his mother; also that Sophax had a son, Diodorus, to whom many of the Libyan peoples became subject, since he had a Greek army composed of the Olbians and Mycenaeans who were settled in those parts by Heracles. But this tale must be ascribed to a desire to gratify Juba, of all kings the most devoted to historical enquiry; for his ancestors are said to have been descendants of Sophax and Diodorus.”

NovoScriptorium: Even though Plutarch himself casts some doubt on the accuracy of this piece of information (but on the other hand he names Juba as ‘the most devoted to historical enquiry‘), what is important is that the Myth recorded here by the author came from the local North Africans themselves. What it says is that during the Bronze Age (the reference to ‘Myceneans‘ leaves no doubt about this) a group of Aegeans had settled in Tingis (the ancient name of Tangier in Morocco). This group mingled with the locals. The reference to ‘Olbians‘ (i.e. people from Olbia, in Sardinia) as ‘Greeks’ also suggests that the Aegeans had been in direct and very close contact with Sardinia during the Bronze Age. Actually, it is indeed evident in the Archaeological record that there had been close contacts of ‘Mycenean Aegeans’ with Italy and the Central and Western Mediterranean during the Bronze Age. 


Fifth excerpt from Apollonius of Rhodes.

(Source for the ancient Greek text, Source for the English translation)

Ancient Greek: “ὧς ἔφατ᾽: οὐδ᾽ ἁλίωσεν ὑπόκρισιν Αἰσονίδαο Εὔφημος: βῶλον δέ, θεοπροπίῃσιν ἰανθείς, ἧκεν ὑποβρυχίην. τῆς δ᾽ ἔκτοθι νῆσος ἀέρθη Kαλλίστη, παίδων ἱερὴ τροφὸς Εὐφήμοιο, οἳ πρὶν μέν ποτε δὴ Σιντηίδα Λῆμνον ἔναιον, Λήμνου τ᾽ ἐξελαθέντες ὑπ᾽ ἀνδράσι Τυρσηνοῖσιν Σπάρτην εἰσαφίκανον ἐφέστιοι: ἐκ δὲ λιπόντας Σπάρτην Αὐτεσίωνος ἐὺς πάις ἤγαγε Θήρας Kαλλίστην ἐπὶ νῆσον, ἀμείψατο δ᾽ οὔνομα Θήρης ἐξ ἕθεν. ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν μετόπιν γένετ᾽ Εὐφήμοιο.”

English: “Thus he spake; and Euphemus made not vain the answer of Aeson’s son; but, cheered by the prophecy, he cast the clod into the depths. Therefrom rose up an island, Calliste, sacred nurse of the sons of Euphemus, who in former days dwelt in Sintian Lemnos, and from Lemnos were driven forth by Tyrrhenians and came to Sparta as suppliants; and when they left Sparta, Theras, the goodly son of Autesion, brought them to the island Calliste, and from himself he gave it the name of Thera. But this befell after the days of Euphemus.”

NovoScriptorium: We believe that this excerpt is a reference to the geological transformation that occured in the Aegean island of Thera (Santorini) during the Bronze Age due to the eruption of its volcano. Before the great volcanic catastrophe of the late 17th c. B.C. the island today named Thera or Santorini was round and was named as such; “Round” (Strongýli – Στρογγύλη in Greek). Obviously, the island did not exactly ‘rise from the depths’ at the time, as the excerpt says, but indeed it appeared as a ‘new island’ on the map; it was ‘new’ because it lost its former -round- shape and took a new one. It was ‘new’ because none of its former inhabitants survived the eruption – a beautiful (Calliste/Καλλίστη means “Most Beautiful” in Greek) empty place available for colonization. This is another element of the same Myth which clearly suggests a Bronze Age origin for the general tale we discuss in this post. More specifically, knowing today with a good approximation that the eruption occured during the late 17th c. B.C. (i.e. Middle to Late Bronze Age), we are informed that the whole Myth narrates events that took place during the same time interval.


Apollonius of Rhodes

NovoScriptorium: With the exception of the first Myth recorded by Pindar, that has a good chance of referring to the Neolithic Age, the rest of the Myths clearly have their origin in the Bronze Age, all of them  long before the historical colonization of Cyrenaica by Aegeans of the 7th c. B.C. .

As we read in Paper 4:As for goats’ presence in Maghreb, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis of goat breeds showed that Moroccan lineages are not derived from Egyptian ones, and an unidirectional east-west diffusion only via land is not compatible with the high level of diversity in the Maghrebi goat population (Pereira et al. 2009: 2770-2771). Therefore, it is possible, in this case, to advance the hypothesis that along with the diffusion via land, a diffusion by sea may also have occurred. A further hypothesis is that domestic species, which were first introduced into the southern European territories from the Near East, might have been brought to northern Africa along two different routes: the so-called Iberian route, which allowed the diffusion into Morocco through the Gibraltar Strait, and the Italian maritime route, which connected the southern coasts of Sicily with northern Tunisia (Oliveira et al. 2011). According to a study by Zilaho (2001; in press), the Neolithic started earlier in eastern and southern Spain than in the western Maghreb. Dates and material culture indicate that, only after diffusing – probably via cabotage – along the coasts of southern France, Spain and Portugal, the Neolithic spread into the Maghreb.”

As we read in Paper 6: “The emergence of food-producing societies in Eastern Maghreb is characterized by an active role of foragers, integrating new technologies and subsistence strategies and adapting them to the local traditions and needs. This acculturation phenomenon, implying a readaptation of the economic, cultural and technical system, can be followed in more contexts along North Africa, where pastoral economic practices were integrated with an Epipalaeolithic diet based on hunted fauna and plant gathering. Furthermore, the Neolithic transition in Eastern Maghreb seems, on the basis of available data, more linked to the specific North African trajectories although seafaring and Mediterranean interactions are evidenced, possibly by the spread of pressure techniques, and since the early 8th millennium cal BP, by Pantellerian obsidian.

As we read in Paper 11: “at least some of the European ancestry observed today in North Africa is related to prehistoric migrations, and local Berber populations were already admixed with Europeans before the Roman conquest”, and “Archaeological evidence suggests that some of the major innovations associated with the Neolithic, such as farming and pottery production, could have been introduced into northern Morocco through sea voyaging by people from Iberia or the central Mediterranean as early as around 5,400 BCE. In fact, some of the Neolithic pottery recorded in North Africa strongly resembles that of European cultures, like the Cardial Early Neolithic (the Mediterranean early farmer culture located in Iberia). However, other innovations, such as some pottery traditions and bone and lithic technical customs, could be the result of in situ development from Epipaleolithic communities, indicating a strong continuity in the local population since the Late Pleistocene.”

NovoScriptorium: At this point it is useful to read this post and compare with the above. We believe that there is little doubt about the Aegeans’ crucial role in the whole procedure. 

As we read in Paper 12: “We have been typically taught that the Fertile Crescent is “The cradle of civilization” or at least the earliest. However, many scholars now believe that there is not a single cradle but several, the first cradle still being debated“, and “The most distant ancestors of the Berbers are of pure African descent, but they are already mixed. Some, the Mechtoids, are strictly indigenous to the Maghreb; others, the Proto-mediterranean Capsians, arrived on the shores of the Mediterranean at a time so far back in Prehistory that the question of whether they are foreign or not becomes meaningless. (Malika Hachid)”.

As we read in Paper 13: “The strongest candidate for a continuous farming trajectory is undoubtedly the Western Maghreb, especially its Atlantic coast and hinterland, a region with earlier signs of agriculture, and later the notable investment in silos and grinding stones at the large settlement site of Oued Beht. This region was also in contact with Iberian groups during the third and second millennia BC“.

NovoScriptorium: In an older post we have discussed the Theogony of the “Atlantians”, i.e. of the ancient inhabitants of Morocco. We may now claim that what Diodorus recorded in his time had been a blend of Aegean Myths cloaked in a ‘local dress’. The claim that Uranus was the first to teach “the uses of cultivated fruits and how to store them up” can now be explained; he was probably the leader of an allochthonous group of people, most likely Aegeans, who taught the locals the various Neolithic innovations. Diodorus writes that: “But since we have made mention of the Atlantians, we believe that it will not be inappropriate in this place to recount what their myths relate about the genesis of the gods, in view of the fact that it does not differ greatly from the myths of the Greeks“. Archaeological record shows that there had never been a population movement from Western Africa towards the Aegean; quite the contrary appears now as a certainty. We may then claim that the similarity of the narrations can be explained as an epi-phenomenon of very ancient contacts and mingling between Aegeans and local Africans. And this makes things even more interesting because the Atlantian Myths claim that:

“(Uranus) subdued the larger part of the inhabited earth, in particular the regions to the west and the north“, “Cronus, they say, was lord of Sicily and Libya, and Italy as well, and, in a word, established his kingdom over the regions to the west“, and “(Zeus) visited all the inhabited world, conferring benefactions upon the race of men. He was pre-eminent also in bodily strength and in all the other qualities of virtue and for this reason quickly became master of the entire world“.

Except the last one (Zeus), which we believe that it is rather symbolic/allegoric, the other two Myths indeed may describe scenes from the Neolithic reality of Europe and the Mediterranean. Not necessarily as actual ‘Empires/Kingdoms’ of the Neolithic Age but rather as “Cultural spheres” or interconnected regions.

Research-Selection-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Philaretus Homerides, Maximus E. Niles, Isidoros Aggelos

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