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date: 28 September 2023

The West African Stone Agelocked

The West African Stone Agelocked

  • Philip Allsworth-JonesPhilip Allsworth-JonesThe University of Sheffield


In terms of artefacts present, West Africa is not short of evidence relating to human occupation during the Quaternary. The problem hitherto has been one of context and dating; there has been some progress in this regard but poor preservation conditions still restrict the presence of organic remains prior to the beginning of the Late Stone Age (LSA). Nonetheless, an excellent climatic record for the last 520 kya has been established on the basis of cores obtained from Lake Bosumtwi. Stratified Acheulean sites have been excavated at Sansandé and Ravin Blanc on the Falémé River in eastern Senegal. The succeeding Sangoan is an entity for which a consistent and reliable classification remains to be achieved. Despite this, excavations at Anyama in the Ivory Coast have produced a sizeable quantity of material, with a terminus post quem thermoluminescence (TL) date of 254 ± 51 kya. Our knowledge of the Middle Stone Age (MSA) has been transformed by the work carried out at Ounjougou in Mali. More than twenty-five distinct archaeological occurrences have been detected, extending from about 75 to 25 kya. The MSA elsewhere is abundant, and at Adrar Bous is in place beneath the Aterian, but much of it lacks a good stratigraphic context. The following dry period, the Ogolian, must have had a dramatic effect on human settlement, and the majority of LSA sites postdate this episode. There is no apparent link between them and the MSA. Nonetheless, the LSA at Shum Lake in Cameroon does have 14C dates in the range 32,700–12,800 BP. The most significant LSA site is Iwo Eleru, notable for the presence of modern human remains with “archaic” characteristics. A parallel situation has been detected at Ishango in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo both indicating a hitherto unsuspected “deep substructure” in Late Pleistocene African populations.


  • Archaeology

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