The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Between continuity and discontinuity: an overview of the West African Paleolithic over 200,000 years


1Department of Genetics & Evolution, University of Geneva, 2Laboratory ArScAn, University of Paris X, 3Department of Geography, University of Rouen, 4Laboratory IRAMAT, University of Bordeaux 3

March 27, 2015 8:00, Grand Ballroom D Add to calendar

In comparison with the archaeological richness of the eastern and southern parts of the continent, the West African Palaeolithic has remained largely unknown until recently. Despite its relation to the Sahara and relevance to the major issues of Palaeolithic north-south mobility, survey of this area has been quite scanty. However, during the last century, much Palaeolithic evidence (ESA to LSA) was recognized by researchers, suggesting early human occupations for at least 200,000 years. Unfortunately, these finds were surface finds or not in situ and never dated, although inaccurate chronological information was sometimes presented. Thus, a good chronostratigraphic framework and detailed description of the different cultural complexes were lacking. Thanks to international research programs since the 2000s, new important and valuable data has been obtained from different areas, from such sites at Ounjougou in Mali, along the Faleme River in Senegal, or in northern Ghana around Birimi. These show a more intricate cultural history, between continuity and discontinuity, than a simple series of traditions. Consequently, knowledge of the West African Palaeolithic (and more broadly in Africa) has been enriched and significantly contributes to key questions currently being addressed: the expansion and mobility of modern humans, the emergence and development of techniques, and chronological gaps and hiatus in the cultural history.

Fundind accepted: University of Geneva, Laboratory Archaeology & Population in Africa.