Early Holocene Occupations at Ashash Rock Shelter (Zemmur, Western Sahara)

in Journal of African Archaeology
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Abstract

The archaeological record of the Western Sahara remains extremely fragmentary, with very few sites systematically excavated. The excavation at Ashash rock shelter (Zemmur region) has provided, for the first time in the region, the evidence of superimposition of two prehistoric occupations that have been radiocarbon dated to the early 9th millennium cal. BP and to the mid-7th millennium cal. BP. The Epipalaeolithic occupation is strongly marked by the standardised production of geometric microliths and points using a microburin blow technique. The Neolithic occupation of the site has yielded a few potsherds that provide the first unambiguous evidence of pottery in the Zemmur area in the mid-7th millennium cal. BP.

Early Holocene Occupations at Ashash Rock Shelter (Zemmur, Western Sahara)

in Journal of African Archaeology

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References

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Figures

  • View in gallery
    A+B: Map of Western Sahara with the location of Ashash rock shelter and the sites mentioned in the text; C: General view of the area from Wadi Kenta, with Ashash rock shelter (red arrow); D: Ashash rock shelter.
  • View in gallery
    A: Plan of Ashash rock shelter; B: Cross-section of the rock shelter and the excavated area; C: Plot of the archaeological material (2 m × 25 cm transect). The line shows the hypothetical separation of the two occupations of the site (Sub-levels I and II). The two 14C dates have been included in the plot although they do not correspond to the transect plotted.
  • View in gallery
    Radiocarbon dates obtained from Ashash rock shelter. Dates calibrated with OxCal v4.3.2 (2017) (Bronk Ramsey 2009) using the IntCal13 calibration curve (Reimer et al. 2013).
  • View in gallery
    Absolute frequency of the different raw material categories (left) and correspondence analysis showing the variables blank and raw material (right). The X-axis represents 84.1% of the variance and the Y-axis 14%. Note that hammerstones have not been included in the chart or in the correspondence analysis.
  • View in gallery
    Cores, crested blades, blades, bladelets and microburins from Ashash rock shelter. Artefacts 6, 7 and 22 are made of flint; 2-4, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 17 and 18-20 are made of jasper; 1, 5, 10, 11, 14, 16 and 21 are made of quartzite.
  • View in gallery
    Absolute frequency of the different categories of retouched tools by raw material (left) and correspondence analysis showing the variables of tool type and raw material (right). The X-axis represents 82.7% of the variance and the Y-axis 7.7%.
  • View in gallery
    Absolute frequency of the different categories of retouched tools by type of blank (left) and correspondence analysis showing the variables of tool type and blank (right). The X-axis represents 59% of the variance and the Y-axis 26.3%.
  • View in gallery
    Projectiles, scrapers, a notch and a borer from Ashash rock shelter. Artefacts 2, 9, 12-15 and 19-21 are made of flint; 3-7, 8, 10, 11, 16-18, 22, 23, 29-31 and 34-36 are made of jasper; 1, 24-28, 32 and 33 are made of quartzite.
  • View in gallery
    Detail of the surfaces of three projectile points observed with a metallographic microscope, where the acute angles of the fractures in the proximal parts (2, 4 and 5) and the impact fractures at the apical ends (1 and 3) are clearly visible.
  • View in gallery
    Potsherds decorated with impressions from Ashash rock shelter.
  • View in gallery
    A: Drawings of ostrich eggshell fragments with engraved motifs; B: Finished beads and beads in different stages of manufacture; C: Pierced Gibberula sp. shell from Ashash rock shelter (photograph of C by Joan Oller).
  • View in gallery
    Location of panels 1 and 2 in Ashash rock shelter.
  • View in gallery
    A: Graphic representation of the three painting panels in Ashash rock shelter; B: Detail of Panel 1 with four human figures (photograph enhanced with D-Stretch software using the LDS colour space).

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