The oldest Homo erectus buried lithic horizon from the Eastern Saharan Africa. EDAR 7 - an Acheulean assemblage with Kombewa method from the Eastern Desert, Sudan
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionPLOS ONE. 2021, 16 (3), e0248279. 10.1371/journal.pone.0248279
Although essential for reconstructing hominin behaviour during the Early Palaeolithic, only a handful of Acheulean sites have been dated in the Eastern Sahara region. This is due to the scarcity of sites for this time period and the lack of datable material. However, recent excavations in the Atbara region (Sudan) have provided unique opportunities to analyse and date Acheulean stone tools. We report here on EDAR 7, part of a cluster of Acheulean and Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites that were recently discovered in the Eastern Desert Atbara River (EDAR) region, located in the Eastern Desert (Sudan) far from the Nile valley. At EDAR 7, a 3.5 metre sedimentary sequence was excavated, allowing an Acheulean assemblage to be investigated using a combination of sedimentology, stone tool studies and optically stimulated luminescence dating (OSL). The site has delivered a complete Acheulean knapping chaine opératoire, providing new information about the Saharan Acheulean. The EDAR 7 site is interpreted as a remnant of a campsite based on the co-occurrence of two reduction modes: one geared towards the production of Large Cutting Tools (LCTs), and the other based on the flaking of small debitage and production of flake tools. Particularly notable in the EDAR 7 assemblage is the abundance of cleavers, most of which display evidence of flake production. Implementation of giant Kombewa flakes was also observed. A geometric morphometric analysis of hand-axes was conducted to verify a possible Late Acheulean assemblage standardisation in the Nubian Sahara. In addition, the analysis of micro-traces and wear on the artefacts has provided information on the use history of the Acheulean stone tools. Sediment analyses and OSL dating show that the EDAR 7 sequence contains the oldest Acheulean encampment remains in the Eastern Sahara, dated to the MIS 11 or earlier. This confirms that Homo erectus occupied the EDAR region during Middle Pleistocene humid periods, and demonstrates that habitable corridors existed between the Ethiopian Highlands, the Nile and the Red Sea coast, allowing population dispersals across the continent and out of it.