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Pleistocene archaeology


The study of Pleistocene in the area began in the early 1990s. Investigations on human adaptation in both arid and wet phases has recently raised a large interest, in the frame of the debate around the dispersal of early modern humans. 

The area witnessed alternate paleoenvironmental and population events ruled by glacial/interglacial conditions. Paleosols, relict fluvial bodies, lacustrine carbonatic deposits, sand dunes and other features underline the severely fluctuating presence and activity of water resources. The region provides two different data sets: 1) two stratified, dated, Middle Stone Age/Aterian sites; and 2) hundreds of surface lithic scatters rarely associated with paleoenvironmental proxies. Early/Middle Pleistocene human occupation is presumable, but the bulk of evidence is from the late Middle/Late Pleistocene. Productive environments possibly housed human groups with a Late Acheulean technology during MIS 7. Most of the MSA evidence is barely diagnostic from a techno-typological point of view. Exceptions are made for scanty but precise similarities with sub-Saharan early MSA findings, suggesting the presence of modern humans in MIS6, and for the Aterian, an example of MIS 4 arid landscape adaptation. Although MIS 3/2 post-Aterian human presence is not demonstrable, signs of a generalized LSA technology are recognizable in the Messak, where stony raw materials could have attracted task-specific temporary occupants.

Acheulean biface

Learn more

Cancellieri, E., M. Cremaschi, A. Zerboni, and S. di Lernia. in press. "Climate, Environment and Population Dynamics in Pleistocene Sahara," in Africa from Marine Isotope Stages 6-2: population dynamics and paleoenvironments. Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology Series. Edited by S. Johnes and B. Steward: Springer.

Cancellieri, E., and S. di Lernia. 2013. Middle Stone Age human occupation and dispersals in the Messak plateau (SW Libya, central Sahara). Quaternary International 300 (25): 142–152.

AZA 1, 1999 - The Uan Afuda Cave. Hunter-Gatherer Societies of Central Sahara. Ed. by S. di Lernia

AZA 2, 2001 - Uan Tabu in the Settlement History of the Libyan Sahara. Ed. by E.A.A. Garcea