Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Prehistoric History of Morocco

Our knowledge of prehistoric North Africa remains limited although we know that it was on the African Continent, and specifically in Tanzania, the "most distant ancestor of Man "appeared some two million years ago and began the first stages of its evolution by learning how to hunt and to shape stone tools.

Draa river carving
Draa river carving
Our knowledge of  prehistoric North Africa remains limited although we know that it was on the African Continent, and specifically in Tanzania, the "most distant ancestor of Man "appeared some two million years ago and began the first stages of its evolution by learning how to hunt and to shape stone tools.
With a number of archaeological finds, some phases of the prehistory of North Africa, and Morocco in particular, seem to possess specific characteristics.
The Lower Paleolithic (about - 1.5 million years ago)
This phase of the Paleolithic or "the time of the carved stone", characterized by the first manifestations of man’s creative activity and intellectual development  revealed many similarities between North Africa, Europe but also Asia.
In Morocco, the humid tropical flora created a very dense (savannah and forests) and diverse wildlife. The number of its inhabitants, with characteristics similar to those of Neanderthal man (that is to say, a skull with thick bones, the profile with a receding brow prominent, sunken orbits, a very strong jaw) is reduced. They are small with an arched walk and survive mainly by  hunting small animals.
Although their equipment is very basic,it seems to be of wood or leather, and carved and chiselled stone implements.the discovery of a considerable number of these stone tools on the site of Salt, and at Tardiguet el Rahla and Souk el Arba. Thus, Morocco also experienced this "pebble culture" or civilization of stone rollers.
The most important discoveries of carved stone hand axes were made and those of Sidi Abderrahmane with bifaces carved in wood Jbel Irhoud.
The Middle Paleolithic: the Aterian (approximately - 50 000 years ago)
This phase specifically  concerns the prehistory of North Africa and its name comes from the deposit of Bir El Ater in Algeria.
Shaping tools demonstrated a considerable degree of ability. Flint, cut into pieces that can be thin, sharp and strong, replaced the hard rock of the previous period, lava or quartzite,  which was difficult to carve. It is now the chips are used as rollers and the tools  are therefore limited in size. Fine examples, among which are fine blades, points, scrapers and scrapers as well as pieces cut on both sides, were discovered near the Casablanca site of Tit Mellil  and Taforalt.
It is likely that the population experienced a significant growth due to the fact that the arming of these hunters makes them more efficient, improving their chances of survival.
There a loss of wildlife in North Africa (hippos are becoming scarce) mainly due to climatic changes. The drying of the Sahara region hitherto abundant flora, begins, and continues and will lead to the isolation of North Africa.
The Upper Paleolithic (about - 15 000 years)
This phase of Prehistory is characterized by the appearance of "Homo sapiens", a new type of man very close to modern man, and by the disappearance of Neanderthal man.
The Caspian and the Ibero-maurusien called today Mouillien or Oranien-of-Mouillah in Algeria, contemporary Magdalenian and Azilian Europeans shared  North Africa. The Mouillien chronologically precedes the Caspian whose name comes from Gafsa, in Tunisia the old Caspa.
According to a number of archaeological excavations, the introduction of the Caspian sees the arrival of a population from the East at about nine thousand years. It appears to be a very distant ancestor of the current Berbers even if the question of the origin of the Berbers remains a matter of speculation.
The Caspian continues the eighth to the fifth millennium BC and is characterized by a tools that are larger than the Mouillien, who were based in Morocco and the Maghreb coast. This civilization would have appeared between 30,000 and 20,000 BC and is characterized by small tools, the occurrence of bone tools and pieces of jewelery, mainly shells. The first shaping and polishing require great skill while the latter demonstrated the emergence and development of some aesthetic concern. This is the beginning of the art of making beautiful objects whose primary function is no longer exclusively "survival".
The first aesthetic concerns appear through the engraved decoration of various objects from container to utility items of adornment.
In Morocco, men begin to deal with sustainable settlements near sources but especially along the coast even though it seems unlikely that they were sailors or fishermen.
The Mouillien were also characterized by the introduction of specific funeral rites denoting religious concerns.
Even if the Caspian appears to have eliminated or absorbed by   the previous populations, the Mechtoïdes (Man of Mechta el-Arbi) continued and even seemed to move towards the center of the Sahara during the Neolithic period.
The Neolithic (about - 4000)
In Morocco, this phase of prehistory or "epoch of polished stone" is not earlier than 4000 BC and appears to have been an extended  historical period.
Between 4000 and 2000 BC, the desertification of the Sahara is entering its final phase leaving some isolated islands and fertile causes migration of its population to the north, east and south.
It is generally accepted that from 1000 BC, the climate did not undergo radical changes. Local wildlife was changing significantly with a considerable increase of antelope and a decline in the number of elephants and big cats.
The decisive event in the first millennium BC is the introduction of domestic animals (dogs, sheep, cattle and horses) and the beginning of the substitution of hunting for breeding. This is recorded in the rock paintings in the Tassili and Hoggar valleys and in the south of Algeria as well as Fuigig, the Draa valley  and the Moroccan Sahara. They record hunting scenes and domestic animals and are the first art forms made y man.
The agricultural revolution spreads through refinements of polished stone tools, with axes and picks. In Dar Soltan, a large number of stone axes were discovered while in Achakar delicate arrowheads  have been founf .Rudimentary kilns and pottery shards modeled attest to the introduction of ceramics.
The discovery of the necropolis of Rouazi in the region of Skhirat in 1980, proved of paramount importance, demonstrating that in addition to the agricultural and pastoral features of the Neolithic, those fishing were also practiced in Morocco. Many graves also had rich funerary objects composed of bone, ivory, stone axes and a large number of pottery vessels of various shapes and decoration.
The necropolis of Skhirat, Taht al Kahf Ghar, Ghar Kahal and are among the most important sites.