One Hundred Years of Archaeology in Niger (pdf)

One Hundred Years of Archaeology in Niger

This paper considers, under rough chronological headings, work undertaken in Niger in the past century. Sites relevant to the Pleistocene occupation of the Sahara, to the adoption of elements of a “Neolithic package,” to the (perhaps misleadingly late) occupation of the Sahel, to alleged metalworking 3000 years ago, and to social complexity, are described and discussed. These data carry a relevance far beyond their immediate area, and the most fruitful application of the archaeology of Niger is to be found in theoretical rethinking.

Fig. 5. Archaeological sites of Niger. Key to sites (in alphabetical order): 24. Aderantarat; 6. Adrar Bous; 39. Afnuk; 45. Afunfun; 36. Aghroum Balkorene; 18. Amakon; 26. Anisaman; 32. Areschima; 26. Asaqaru; 28. Assode; 15. Awalawalt; 26. Azelik; 5. Azrou; 55. Bani Bangou; 33. Bilma; 50. Birnin Garafa; 58. Bura; 25. Chin Tafidet; 26. ChinWasadan; 43. ChinWasararan; 34. Dogonboulo; 43. EfeyWaschran; 43. Ekne wan Ataram; 29. Ekouloulef; 1. Emi Lulu; 34. Fachi; 26. Fagochia; 52. Gabu; 63. Gorou Banda; 8. Greboun; 26. Guelele; 18. Ibine; 56. Ikarafane; 17. Ikawaten; 19. In Aridal; 53. In Tachoulen; 39. In Taylalen; 24. In Teduq; 21. In Tekebrin; 25. In Tuduf; 38. InWaggeur; 11. Iwelen; 14. Izouzadene; 47. Janjari; 48. ?Jola; 51. ?Karagu Gamdwa; 61. Kareygoru; 53. Kareygusu; 55. Kase Gorou; 63. Kirkissoy; 59. Kolo; 49. Kufan Kanawa; 50. Likaderi; 16. Madaou´ ela; 13. Mammanet; 40. Marandet; 23. Mentes; 10. Merguigara; 44. Mio; 27. Orofan; 40. Orub; 3. Rocher Toubeau; 62. Rosi; 63. Saguia; 9. Seguedine; 39. Shimumenin; 55. Soumatt; 35. Tadeliza; 38. Taferjit; 31. Tagalagal; 20. Takene Bawat; 22. Tamaya Mellet; 60. Tapague; 46. Tarada; 30. Tasagouacheret; 12. Tassos; 42. Tegef n’Agar; 8. Temet; 37. Termit Egaro; 36. Tezamak; 15. Tibarakatine; 56. Tiguezefen; 54. Tiloa Nord; 53. Tin Farad; 15. Tinguermawen; 4. TinKeradet; 7. Tin Ouaffadene; 59. Tondikwarey; 2. Toummo; 54. Tuizegoru; 27. Tuluk; 41. Tyeral; 56. Wedi Bangou; 57. Yatakala; 52. Yasaan.

Reading through the paper, it suggests that the North African Aterian people penetrated as far south as Niger:

Niger sites such as Seguedine and Adrar Bous represented both the southernmost and the latest expansion of Aterian toolmakers from the Mediterranean shores, stopped by large marshy expanses in the Lake Chad area perhaps as late as 8000 years ago (see also D´eb´enath, 1992). Tillet (1989) attributed an age of some 20,000 to 30,000 years to the Aterian of Niger, as did Clark (1973a) at the time of the original excavations of Adrar Bous.

Which might explain the R1 and trace U6 in West Africa. Although it’s hard to tell just who the Aterian really relates to. The backmigration from Asia seems to have a date of about 35k or older in North Africa now, but in places the Aterian overlaps it and seems to go before it- although the ancient North African population prior to the backmigration doesn’t seem to have left any traceable DNA anywhere. This second quote also seems to suggest a second later population moving from North Africa southwards: I’ve seen similarities between the Holocene Libyan Sahara and Niger noted in more than publication. Ounan points are typically Mahgrebian, and are seen in the desert as far West as Egypt, and into Mali (the Mechtoid populations range) and it vanishes about 7,000 BP, with the arrival of the Capsian neolithic tradition.

It is not clear, either, whether the Aterian toolmakers were the last Paleolithic occupants of Niger.  Examining two surface exposures at Adrar Bous and a deflating terrace feature at Greboun, Clark (1976) identified an Epipaleolithic industry characterized by specialized forms of retouched blades and bladelets (including the [often asymmetrically] tanged Ounan point) and by the absence of microlithic pieces. Clark (1973a, 1976) proposes, principally on the basis of the occurrence of Ounan points, that the Adrar Bous and Greboun assemblages represent the tail end of a general phenomenon of diffusion of northern blade industries throughout the Sahara, beginning some time after 12,000 years ago; the (undated) Adrar Bous and Greboun evidence is thought to be some 8000 years old.

Which would probably be the ‘mechtoid’ populations of the Sahara. This paper also has some details on the appearance of domesticated cattle and metallurgy in Niger.


5 responses to “One Hundred Years of Archaeology in Niger (pdf)

  1. “The backmigration from Asia seems to have a date of about 35k or older in North Africa now”.

    I’m becoming more and more convinced that Y-hap E represents a migration back into Africa. Perhaps 35k ago? Early branches tend to be concentrated in West Africa but also in the Horn. And of course it has now spread throughout Africa replacing earlier A and B lines, although these lines do survive in North Africa. Perhaps these A and B lines represent “traceable DNA” from “the ancient North African population prior to the backmigration”.

    • I don’t know.. honestly, it’s not impossible. But Y DNA is a bugger to date correctly so I’m witholding any comment on older families. I can’t held wondering if DE bought the farm in Asia along with L3 and M in the Toba eruption.

      Sorry for tardy reply, I’ve had the kids home for half term and couldn’t access the computer much. Now I have 37 comments to sort through.

  2. It’s not necessary that Y hap E emerged in Asia; it might have originated in that part of NE Africa where “non-Africans” evolved.

    “An important question in the ongoing debate on the origin of Homo sapiens is whether modern human populations issued from a single lineage or whether several, independently evolving lineages contributed to their genetic makeup. We analyzed haplotypes composed of 35 polymorphisms from a segment of the dystrophin gene. We find that the bulk of a worldwide sample of 868 chromosomes represents haplotypes shared by different continental groups. The remaining chromosomes carry haplotypes specific for the continents or for local populations. The haplotypes specific for non-Africans can be derived from the most frequent ones through simple recombination or a mutation. In contrast, chromosomes specific for sub-Saharan Africans represent a distinct group, as shown by principal component analysis, maximum
    likelihood tree, structural comparison, and summary statistics. We propose that African chromosomes descend from at least two lineages that have been evolving separately for a period of time. One of them underwent range expansion colonizing different continents, including Africa, where it mixed with another, local lineage represented today by a large fraction of African-specific haplotypes. Genetic admixture involving archaic lineages appears therefore to have occurred within Africa rather than outside this continent, explaining greater diversity of sub-Saharan populations observed in a variety of genetic systems.”

  3. “I can’t held wondering if DE bought the farm in Asia along with L3 and M in the Toba eruption”.

    My take on Toba is that it was nowhere near as destructive as many people like to believe. It may have damaged parts of SE Asia but even not too far away the Hobbits survived on Flores. And in the opposite direction even in India pre- and post- Toba seems little different.

    Possibly Toba’s eruption did split Y-haps D and E. And perhaps split F and C as well. But this would probably put Y-hap E outside Africa, because Y-haps D and E must have been part of a single population at some stage. Where was that population centred? And how widely was it spread?

    Many people accept that the modern distribution of the basal Y-chromosome and mtDNA haplogroups is simply the product of drift, bottlenecks and founder effect acting after the expansion from India of a single population already containing multiple haplogroups. There is no reason at all why we must exclude D/E from being part of any such expansion. That interpretation would also put Y-hap E outside Africa.

    But there are problems with adopting this simple explanation. Using the same logic we could claim that Y-haps A and B, along with all those mtDNA Ls, were also part of just such a single expansion. Their survival only in Africa is simply a product of drift, bottlenecks and founder effect acting on that same single population. That would raise the possibility that all haplogroups, not just Y-hap E, originated outside Africa, in Asia.

    Not many of us would interpret the evidence this way. But I suggest we should at least be consistent in the way we interpret the evidence. On what grounds can we claim to be able to interpret the evidence in different particular ways at particular different times?

    Most of us usually accept that the distribution of more recent haplogroup variants is a product of migration rahter than being the product of drift, bottlenecks and founder effect acting over some original population’s geographic distribution.

    Certainly drift, bottlenecks and founder effect have influenced which haplogroups have been able to survive, just as they have for many genes. But each haplogroup, and even each individual gene, has always expanded relatively independently through the human population. They haven’t all originated at just a single time and place and then expanded together. Therefore it’s quite possible that Y-hap E originated outside Africa regardless of the date we place on its origin.

  4. Phenelzine wrote, “it might have originated in that part of NE Africa where ‘non-Africans’ evolved”.

    The weakness of that argument, as I pointed out in my previous post, is that there is no reason why we can’t then claim that all haplogroups originated in the same population. We have to explain why Y-haps D and C are confined to regions so far from Africa and yet Y-hap C-T must have diversified in a single, probably very widespread, population. Not at all necessarily in Africa although it derives as part of an African haplogroup. Perhaps it formed part of an ‘original’ non-African population.

    C-T next gave rise to two haplogroups: C-F/T and D-E. These need not have belonged to the same population, they may have formed in two separate subpopulations. But where?

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