UCL Qatar


Dr. Gaetano Palumbo, Head of UCL Qatar's Research in Morocco, shares updates

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20 April 2018

The Transformation of the Moroccan Landscape in the Early Islamic period

During the last survey of the UCL Qatar mission, which took place between January 21st and February 21st, 2018, many new discoveries have given us reason to celebrate.

Notwithstanding a fairly ungrateful weather and health issues affecting almost all of us, the surveys were very fruitful. The team - which this time focused mainly on the Paleolithic sites - was able to conduct research aimed at completing studies conducted years ago in the region by researchers from INSAP associated with the project. Between the results obtained, we must mention the discovery of a large Lower Palaeolithic deposit, a period almost unknown in the extreme north of Morocco.

About ten kilometers southeast of the city of Assilah, near the village of Sidi Yamani, by prospecting the first incision of a small tributary of Oued Charqane, in turn tributary of the larger Oued Ayasha / Chrifa which reaches the sea north of Asilah, the team was able to observe dozens of cuts created by the regressive erosion of the stream. These show the stratification of alluvial layers forming small terraces near the main bed of the stream. In these sections archaeologists have found dozens of stone tools which can be attributed to the Lower Palaeolithic period known as Acheulean, which can have an age - in Morocco - between one million and 150,000 years ago. A huge amount of artifacts was also found in the stream's bed. They belong to the eroded Acheulean layer but also to more recent periods of prehistory, especially the Middle

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Palaeolithic. Such ancient artefacts - now stored at INSAP in Rabat - bear witness to the existence of demographically consistent populations in the far north of Africa in a period that calls into question their possible passage through the Strait of Gibraltar and their participation to the settlement of the Iberian Peninsula and the European continent. This discovery is only the first step of a research that promises to be fruitful given the fact that fluvial terrace sites are a "great classic" of prehistoric archaeology. The methods of prospecting (stratigraphy, geomorphology, sedimentology) and dating (radiocarbon, optically stimulated luminescence) are well known, so in this case it will be very interesting to apply them to a situation that is archaeologically very rich.

A new phase of archaeological research is opening up in Morocco; the Tingitan peninsula is a new entry it the unveiling of older prehistory of this country, traditionally only been investigated in the coastal formations of Casablanca and Rabat and their surroundings. We hope that this can contribute, as it promises, to the understanding of the earliest prehistory of Africa.