Tag Archives: Archaeology

Leiterband ceramics and other stray bits of info

More archaeological work in Lower Wadi Howar

A field report I found while looking for info on Leiterband pottery. Most usable quotes for me..

Leiterbandmotifs are the predominant decorative pattern of the earliest pastoral phase of Middle Wadi Howar, but also occur further west in the Chad,

 Leiterbandmotifs, which suggest a date in the fourth or third millennium BC

From a second pdf studying the same area (more interesting than the one above):

On the basis of 15 radiocarbon samples, the Leiterband complex dates chiefly between 5200 and 4000 14C yr

And the sequence goes in Wadi Howar… dotted wavy line (Holocene hunter gatherers) Laqiya (later hunter gatherers), then Leiterband (pastoralist). The oldest Leiterband marked is just a bit younger than 6,000 BP.

The only thing that troubles me mildly is that there is no mention of ovicaprines at the Leiterband sites. Lots of cattle though, and microliths that were probably used to bleed them. However a little digging tells me that ovicaprines were present in 5,500 BP at Al Kadada (which was founded about 6,000 BP), so the animals would have been known to the Leiterband people, just not herded by them. Possibly the lack of ovicaprines was due to the lusher conditions in the Wadi at the time that favoured cattle.

 And another pdf, Aridity, Change and Conflict in Africa, has more information: it seems that small livestock were a slightly later addition (behind by a few hundred years into Northern Sudan).

A look at the geology of the area explains why the Westward migration – Wadi Howar provides a route from the Nile to the West that would still have had water in the Leiterband era.

The development of the pottery design styles in the Wadi Howar region which dates the Leiterband transition to 6,000 BP. This one has the best info on the ceramics and their manufacture .

Well, we have an earliest date of 6,000 BP for the expansion of proto Chadic speakers West along Wadi Howar. So a Neolithic culture is strongly associated with Chadic speakers, which IMO adds more weight to a neolithic date for the expansion of v88 into Africa and it’s ‘marriage’ to L3f3.

The Women of Brassempouy: A Century of Research and Interpretation

The Women of Brassempouy: A Century of Research and Interpretation

The discovery of female figurines at Brassempouy in the 1890’s would launch more than a century of debate and interpretation concerning Paleolithic representations of women. The figurines emerged from the ground into a colonial intellectual and socio-political context nearly obsessed with matters of race. This early racial interpretive frame would only be replaced in the mid 20th century, when prehistorians turned to questions such as fertility and womanhood.

The first figurines were discovered in 1892 under rather tortured circumstances in which their very ownership was the subject of a heated dispute between Edouard Piette and Emile Cartailhac. Their toxic relationship would lead Piette, in his subsequent excavations, to be extremely precise about issues of stratigraphic and spatial provenience. Piette’s publications and archives enabled Henri Delporte to confirm the Gravettian attribution of the figurines and have allowed the present author to create a map of their spatial distribution within the site.

Technological and microscopic analysis of the Brassempouy figurines resolves some lingering questions about the sex of certain of the figurines and suggests an original context of figurine fabrication and the abandonment of unsuccessful sculpting attempts.

Just a pdf I found while surfing, with some interesting info on some of the statuettes.

Some Observations on Christian Burial Practices at Kellis

Some Observations on Christian Burial Practices at Kellis

Gillian E. Bowen

In 1997 I was invited by Anthony Mills to publish the archaeology of the Kellis 2 cemetery as an adjunct to my work on early Christianity in Egypt. Since that time further Christian burials have been discovered at Kellis other than in this cemetery. The primary aim of this paper is to publish preliminary observations on the burial practices adopted by the Christian community at Kellis in light of what is known of such practices in Egypt. The graves in Kellis 2 are being excavated by archaeologists under the direction of Eldon Molto, who co-ordinates the work of the physical anthropologists. Molto and his team are conducting a range of analyses on the skeletal remains that have added a new dimension to our knowledge of the community. Molto’s analyses include radiocarbon tests of twelve samples in an effort to determine the date of the interments. The interpretation of the results of those analyses presents a broad time-frame that is seemingly at variance with the data from the settlement. This paper, therefore, presents an ideal opportunity to consider this dichotomy and how it might be addressed by  archaeologists and physical anthropologists alike.


A paper on Roman era burials of Egyptians that converted to Christianity, NOT Roman Christians.

The number of Christian burials at Kellis and the lack of identified pagan burials from the end of the third century attest the rapid conversion of the community.

 DNA from modern Egypt suggests that any Roman input was a fraction of one percent, and so it would seem unlikely that a place so far off the beaten track in the South Western Desert would have any large amount of non Egyptian ancestry in it. Dr Molto’s DNA breakdown of the population was that it had mainly northern (Eurasian) maternal haplotypes.

Both populations, ancient and contemporary, fit the north-south clinal distribution of “southern” and “northern” mtDNA types (Graver et al. 2001). However, significant differences were found between these populations. Based on an increased frequency of HpaI 3592 (+) haplotypes in the contemporary Dakhlehian population, the authors suggested that, since Roman times, gene flow from the Sub-Saharan region has affected gene frequencies of individuals from the oasis.

I’ve got the abstract here.

There’s a lot of information on the burial customs, both pagan and Christian in the era.

35,000 year old figurine from Germany


From Hohle Fels in south west Germany and I just love it. Okay, so she looks a bit like a spatchcocked chicken with knockers and stretch marks, but it’s still brilliant. Link

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.

Prehistoric contacts over the Straits of Gibraltar indicated by genetic analysis of Iberian Bronze Age cattle

Prehistoric contacts over the Straits of Gibraltar indicated by genetic analysis of Iberian Bronze Age cattle
Cecilia Anderung*, Abigail Bouwman†, Per Persson‡, José Miguel Carretero§, Ana Isabel Ortega§, Rengert Elburg¶, Colin Smith∥, Juan Luis Arsuaga**, Hans Ellegren*, and Anders Götherström*,††
+Author Affiliations
The geographic situation of the Iberian Peninsula makes it a natural link between Europe and North Africa. However, it is a matter of debate to what extent African influences via the Straits Gibraltar have affected Iberia’s prehistoric development. Because early African pastoralist communities were dedicated to cattle breeding, a possible means to detect prehistoric African–Iberian contacts might be to analyze the origin of cattle breeds on the Iberian Peninsula. Some contemporary Iberian cattle breeds show a mtDNA haplotype, T1, that is characteristic to African breeds, generally explained as being the result of the Muslim expansion of the 8th century A.D., and of modern imports. To test a possible earlier African influence, we analyzed mtDNA of Bronze Age cattle from the Portalón cave at the Atapuerca site in northern Spain. Although the majority of samples showed the haplotype T3 that dominates among European breeds of today, the T1 haplotype was found in one specimen radiocarbon dated 1800 calibrated years B.C. Accepting T1 as being of African origin, this result indicates prehistoric African–Iberian contacts and lends support to archaeological finds linking early African and Iberian cultures. We also found a wild ox haplotype in the Iberian Bronze Age sample, reflecting local hybridization or backcrossing or that aurochs were hunted by these farming cultures.

It seems they were moving cattle across the straits about 4,000 years ago.

The faces of North Africa; from rock art to the age of the Moors

Not including dynastic Egyptians, which I have on a separate page, here.

Saharan rock art.

Two pictures from Tassili, then a few from Uan Fathi, hair-washing scene from Uan Amil and finally the Tassili ladies. At least two of the images seem to depict blondes and red heads, hair colours uncommon but not unknown in North Africa. The black ladies are examples of Roundhead art from the central Sahara about 9,000 BP-possibly a Nilo Saharan speaking people ethnically quite different to the coastal Capsian culture who were Eurasian in ancestry. The rest are examples of Neolithic art from the Pastoral era.


Egyptian depictions of North Africans

From various sources. The last image is an illustration copied from a now badly damaged wall painting in the Tomb of Ramses depicting the races as the Egyptians knew them. I have an image of the damaged frieze stored, and it’s a faithful reproduction. The pasty face third in is a Libyan’s head from the crook of  Tutankhamen. The two in the same picture are Libyan ambassadors.


Roman era mosaics from North Africa

The first two are ‘the goddess Africa’.These are crops from many mosaics, mainly from North African museums like El Djem. Some of these are deities, but since they don’t appear to be depicted any differently to the general population I’ve included many of them here, although I’ve omitted the mermaids and centaurs. The slaves, nobles, dancers, gladiators and gods are all depicted similarly, so I’m assuming this is pretty close to the norm for North Africans of the era.


Coinage portraits

Mostly from Carthage


Byzantine images from North Africa

This is the post-Roman Christian era, for about 200 years prior to the arrival of Islam.


Moorish Era  depictions of the Moors

These are taken from the tale of Bayad and Riyad, a book written in a North African dialect. It’s unclear whether it is North African or Spanish in origin.


These are from ‘the Book of Games’, commissioned by King Alfonso X. In this book Moors are also referred to as Arabs on occasion. A look at one of the lady’s hands shows the use of henna, and c couple of the white beards look suspiciously red tinted too; dyeing beards with henna happens too.


From Cantigas de Santa Maria, 13th century, reign of King Alfonso X


From the 12th century  Skylitzes Chronicle


Other Moorish portraits.


This is meant to be a contemporary image of the Moorish leader Tariq Ibn Ziyad, after whom the rock of Gibraltar is named. I’ve been told that others exist, but I’m having a hard time locating them!