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The Cyrenaican Prehistory Project 2012: the fifth season of investigations of the Haua Fteah cave

  • Graeme Barker (a1), Paul Bennett (a2), Lucy Farr (a1), Evan Hill (a3), Chris Hunt (a3), Giulio Lucarini (a4), Jacob Morales (a5), Giuseppina Mutri (a1), Amy Prendergast (a6), Alexander Pryor (a1), Ryan Rabett (a1), Tim Reynolds (a7), Pia Spry-Marques (a6) and Mohammed Twati (a8)...

Abstract

The paper reports on the fifth (2012) season of fieldwork of the Cyrenaican Prehistory Project. The primary focus of the season was the continuation of the excavation of the prehistoric occupation layers in the Haua Fteah cave. A small trench (Trench U) was cut into Holocene (Neolithic) sediments exposed on the south wall of Charles McBurney's Upper Trench. Below this, the excavation of Trench M was continued, on the southern side of McBurney's Middle Trench. In previous seasons we had excavated Oranian ‘Epipalaeolithic’ layers dating to c. 18,000–10,000 BP (years before the present). In 2012 the excavation continued downwards through Dabban ‘Upper Palaeolithic’ occupation layers, one of which was associated with a post-built structure and likely hearths. There are indications of an occupational hiatus separating the oldest Dabban from the youngest Levallois-Mousterian (Middle Palaeolithic or Middle Stone Age) lithic material. The Deep Sounding excavated by Charles McBurney in 1955 was cleared of backfill to its base, and its south-facing wall was recorded in detail and sampled extensively for materials for dating and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. McBurney believed that he had reached bedrock at the base of the Deep Sounding, but a small sounding (Trench S) cut into the sediments below this level found further, albeit sparse, evidence for human occupation. Whilst the antiquity of ‘Pre-Aurignacian’ human occupation at the site still needs to be resolved, it seems likely to reach back at least to Marine Isotope Stage 5e, the beginning of the last interglacial (c. 130,000–115,000 BP). Important finds from the 2012 excavations in terms of the behavioural complexity of the human groups using the cave include a possible worked bone point from a Pre-Aurignacian layer and a granite rubbing stone in a Dabban layer from a source over 600 km from the cave.

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