Capsian culture

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The main sites of the Iberomaurusian and Capsian cultures in north Africa

The Capsian culture was a Mesolithic culture centered in the Maghreb, which lasted from about 10,000 to 6,000 BCE. It was named after the town of Gafsa in Tunisia, which was Capsa in Roman times.

The Capsian industry was concentrated mainly in modern Tunisia and Algeria, with some sites attested in southern Spain to Sicily. It is traditionally divided into two horizons, the Capsien typique (Typical Capsian) and the Capsien supérieur (Upper Capsian), which are sometimes found in chronostratigraphic sequence. They represent variants of one tradition, the differences between them being both typological and technological.[1][2][3]

An ostrich egg bottle from the Mesolithic-Neolithic Capsian culture.

During this period, the environment of the Maghreb was open savanna, much like modern East Africa, with Mediterranean forests at higher altitudes.[4] The Capsian diet included a wide variety of animals, ranging from aurochs and hartebeest to hares and snails; there is little evidence concerning plants eaten.[5][6] During the succeeding Neolithic of Capsian Tradition, there is evidence from one site, for domesticated, probably imported, ovicaprids.[7]

Typical Capsian burial (Tunisia)

Anatomically, Capsian populations were modern Homo sapiens, traditionally classed into two variegate types: Proto-Mediterranean and Mechta-Afalou on the basis of cranial morphology. Some have argued that they were immigrants from the east (Natufians),[8] whereas others argue for population continuity based on physical skeletal characteristics and other criteria,[9] et cetera.[5][9][10]

Dental trait analysis of Capsian fossils found that they were closely related to Afroasiatic-speaking populations inhabiting the Maghreb, Nile Valley, and Canary Islands. Among the examined ancient populations, the Capsians were nearest to the Guanche autochthones of the Canary Islands and Byzantine period Egyptians from the Kharga Oasis, and more remotely to the Christian era inhabitants of Semna in Nubia, New Kingdom period Pharaonic Nubians from Soleb, Punic era Phoenicians from Carthage, Roman/Byzantine period Egyptians from El Hesa, 12th Dynasty Egyptians from Lisht, Meroitic era inhabitants of Semna, and X-Group culture bearers. Among the recent groups, the Capsians were morphologically closest to Kabyle Berbers from Algeria, followed by Shawia Berbers from Algeria and Arabic-speaking Bedouins from Morocco, Tunisia and Libya. The Capsian skeletons and these ancient and recent fossils were also phenotypically distinct from those belonging to recent Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan and Khoisan-speaking populations in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as from the Mesolithic period inhabitants of Jebel Sahaba in Nubia.[11]

Given the Capsian culture's timescale, widespread occurrence in the Sahara, and association with modern speakers of the Afroasiatic languages, historical linguists have tentatively associated the industry with the Afroasiatic family's earliest speakers on the continent.[12]

Nothing is known about Capsian religion, but their burial methods suggest a belief in an afterlife. Decorative art is widely found at their sites, including figurative and abstract rock art, and ochre is found coloring both tools and corpses. Ostrich eggshells were used to make beads and containers; seashells were used for necklaces. The Ibero-Maurusian practice of extracting the central incisors continued sporadically, but became rarer.

The Eburran industry which dates between 13,000 and 9,000 BCE in East Africa, was formerly known as the "Kenya Capsian" due to similarities in the stone blade shapes.

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References[edit]

  1. ^ 2005 D. Lubell. Continuité et changement dans l'Epipaléolithique du Maghreb. In, M. Sahnouni (ed.) Le Paléolithique en Afrique: l’histoire la plus longue, pp. 205-226. Paris: Guides de la Préhistoire Mondiale, Éditions Artcom’/Errance.
  2. ^ 2004 N. Rahmani. Technological and cultural change among the last Hunter-Gatherers of the Maghreb: the Capsian (10,000 B.P. to 6000 B.P.). Journal of World Prehistory 18(1): 57-105.
  3. ^ 2013 S. Mulazzani (ed.) Le Capsien de Hergla (Tunisie). Culture, Environnement et économie. Reports in African Archaeology 4. Frankfurt a. M., Africa Magna Verlag. ISBN 978-3-937248-36-3.
  4. ^ 1984 D. Lubell. Paleoenvironments and Epi Paleolithic economies in the Maghreb (ca. 20,000 to 5000 B.P.). In, J.D. Clark & S.A. Brandt (eds.), From Hunters to Farmers: The Causes and Consequences of Food Production in Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 41-56.
  5. ^ a b 1984 D. Lubell, P. Sheppard & M. Jackes. Continuity in the Epipalaeolithic of northern Africa with an emphasis on the Maghreb. In, F. Wendorf & A. Close (eds.), Advances in World Archaeology, Vol. 3: 143-191. New York: Academic Press.
  6. ^ 2004 D. Lubell.Prehistoric edible land snails in the circum-Mediterranean: the archaeological evidence. In, J-J. Brugal & J. Desse (eds.), Petits Animaux et Sociétés Humaines. Du Complément Alimentaire Aux Ressources Utilitaires. XXIVe rencontres internationales d’archéologie et d’histoire d’Antibes, pp. 77-98. Antibes: Éditions APDCA.
  7. ^ 1979 C. Roubet. Économie Pastorale Préagricole en Algérie Orientale: le Néolithique de Tradition Capsienne. Paris: CNRS.
  8. ^ 1985 D. Ferembach. On the origin of the Iberomaurusians (Upper Paleolithic, North Africa): a new hypothesis. Journal of Human Evolution 14: 393-397.
  9. ^ a b 1991 P. Sheppard & D. Lubell. & Lubell.pdf Early Holocene Maghreb prehistory: an evolutionary approach[permanent dead link]. Sahara 3: 63-9
  10. ^ D. Lubell (October 1, 2001). "Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene Maghreb". In Peregrine, Peter Neal; Ember, Melvin. Encyclopedia of Prehistory (PDF). 1 : Africa. New York: Springer. pp. 129–149. 
  11. ^ Irish, Joel D. (1998). "Dental morphological affinities of Late Pleistocene through recent sub-Saharan and north African peoples" (PDF). Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société d'anthropologie de Paris. 10 (3): 237–272. Retrieved 24 June 2017. 
  12. ^ Language, Volume 61, Issues 3-4. Linguistic Society of America. 1985. p. 695. Retrieved 31 January 2017. 

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