Category Archives: Morocco

Hunter-gatherers, acorns and tooth trouble

It has been commonplace to believe that hunter-gatherers had good tooth health and that it was farming what caused dental problems because as cereals became a staple. There was good reason for that: caries were detected only rarely among hunter-gatherer remains (0-14%) while early farmers had much such painful problems much more frequently.
However the Upper Paleolithic people of Taforalt caves (Rif, North Africa), some 14,000 years ago (Oranian culture), had caries in 51% of adult teeth, a frequency comparable to those of early farmers.
This is attributed to the very high levels of nut consumptions, particularly acorns but also pine nuts, juniper berries, pistachios and wild oats. The number of acorn remains found is so large that the archaeologists had to conclude that they were used as year-long staple.

Late Upper Paleolithic of North Africa
· Iberomaurusian, aka Oranian, is shaded in dark green ·
· The core area of Capsian is shaded in gray-blue ·
(credit: Locutus Borg (anticopyright))
Taforalt people had hand mills, which they used to process some of these nuts, most likely the acorns, whose consumption as bread has been documented since antiquity.
Another finding are esparto grasses, which the authors believe were used in basketry. However I must mention that this versatile fiber has known many uses, being documented in Neolithic clothing of nearby Andalusia, used for some types of shoes even today and, of course, being a prime material for rope-making.

Esparto bale
Oranian culture dates to c. 22,000 years ago, with likely (partial?) roots in the Southern Iberian Gravetto-Solutrean (hence the name Iberomaurusian, although the culture as such is not known in Iberia). It was replaced in the Epipaleolithic by Capsian culture, with ultimate roots at the Nile (and hence the most likely vector of Afroasiatic languages leading to Tamazigh, aka Berber).
Source: PhysOrg.
Ref. Louise T. Humphrey et al., Earliest evidence for caries and exploitation of starchy plant foods in Pleistocene hunter-gatherers from Morocco. PNAS 2013 (pay per view, free after 6 months) → LINK [doi: 10.1073/pnas.1318176111]

Posted by on January 9, 2014 in Africa, Morocco, North Africa, Oranian, Paleolithic food


Alert: destruction of 8000 year-old engravings in Morocco by Fundamentalists – government denies

The Amazigh League for Human Rights denounced the destruction of several Neolithic engravings in Toubkal National Park, south of Marakesh. Among the damaged art is said to be a depiction of the Sun as a god. They date from c. 6000 BCE.

Source and more details: BBC (h/t Stone Pages’ Archaeonews).

The damaged relic (source)

Update: the Government of Morocco denies the claim with strange wording

The Moroccan authorities have denied the claim of a vandalism against a solar engraving attributed to Fundamentalists. According to an AFP report:

“This kind of incident, contrary to our values, cannot take place in
Morocco,” it said, adding that an investigation carried out with local
and regional authorities had showed that the claims were unfounded.

such sites “can suffer, like elsewhere, the effects of natural and even
human degradation, sometimes through vandalism and trafficking.”

The wording is at the very least strange: the logic does not seem sound (can’t happen because of our values) and the suggestion of other reasons for the same vandalism are at the very least suspicious. 
My reading is that the Moroccan Ministry of Culture wishes to deny all kind of militant Salafist activism but that, subtly, acknowledges the destruction, attributing it to mystery causes (either erosion or mindless vandalism) rather than Fundamentalism. 
Not too credible. 

Update (Oct 25):

Dalouh (see comments) has been gathering some more info on the matter from Arabic language sources in Facebook and it would seem that the locals chased out the fundamentalist vandals preventing greater damage, still:

Above: damage stone, below: original


Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Morocco, North Africa, rock art, vandalism


Epipaleolithic and Neolithic burials found in Morocco

Just a short heads up notice because nothing seems to have been formally published or even radiometrically dated yet but Press News Africa reports (h/t Pileta) that two human burials have been found some 300 km East of Rabat, in the village of El Ksir (near Aïn Tajoudate, El Hajeb province). 
As I say, the two skeletons are yet to be dated with C14 but from the stratigraphic context it is estimated that they are from 6-8 Ka. ago one and from 8-14 Ka ago the other. Both are male and seemingly buried in flexed position inside oval tombs with the most recent one having a scraper as only grave good, while the other had a limestone slab on top of the tomb.
La Braña connection?
It would be extremely interesting if DNA is extracted and analyzed from them, of course. But specially what I have in mind right now is the possible relationship between their burial style and that of La Braña (León, NW Iberia), which, as I mentioned back in the day, is not typical from local Paleolithic, rising more questions than answers.
As you may know, Western Iberia and very specially some mountain areas of León, show unusually high levels of North African genetics (always minor but clearly significant for Europe). And, as you may remember, the La Braña composite appeared to show a consistent 10% of African admxiture (either East African, or Khoisan or just generic African, all which can be hypothetically consistent with untested North African admixture).
If I’m correct on this, it would imply that the North African minor affinity that characterizes Western Iberia and specially the mountain areas of León would be as old as the Epipaleolithic, maybe even older, supporting my old hypothesis of genetic exchange across Gibraltar Strait occurring mostly in the period of the Oranian (Iberomaurusian) genesis and the cultural backflow associated to the introduction of winged and tanged points into the Southern Iberian Gravetto-Sloutrean, which seems to be behind the Solutrean of Asturias as well. 
Just a possibility at the moment but a thread that I deem interesting to follow in the archaeo-genetic labyrinth. 

Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Africa, Epipaleolithic, Iberia, Morocco, Neolithic, North Africa


Homo sapiens child’s remains found in Morocco (108 Ka BP)

Artistic recreation of Bouchra (right)
The quite complete remnants of a child of our species, Homo sapiens, have been found in the site known as Smugglers’ Cave (Dar es Soltan, Morocco) in Aterian context. The child has been nicknamed Bouchra, meaning Good News in Arabic.
No paper or image of the infant’s skeleton are known, as the research is financed by the sensationalist media National Geographic, which aims to keep the exclusive. 
There are several older known members of our species in Africa (from Mozambique to Morocco) and Palestine but this one seems to be the first one dead at such a young age: approximately 8 years old. The remains have been dated to c. 108 Ka ago.

Sources:[en] and Mundo Neandertal[es].