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The Dynamics of Mediterranean Africa, ca. 9600–1000 bc: An Interpretative Synthesis of Knowns and Unknowns

Issue: Vol 32 No. 2 (2019)

Journal: Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology

Subject Areas: Ancient History Archaeology

DOI: 10.1558/jma.40581


Mediterranean Africa forms a crucial junction between the wider Saharan zone and the rest of the Mediterranean.In contrast to its well-investigated history from the first millennium BC onward, its antecedentdynamics are very poorly understood, and deeper archaeological histories of the Mediterranean thereforeremain unbalanced and incomplete. This paper draws on a new surge in data to present the first up-todateinterpretative synthesis of this region's archaeology from the start of the Holocene until the threshold ofthe Iron Age (9600-1000 bc). It presents the evidence for climatic, environmental and sea-level change,followed by analysis of the chronological and spatial patterning of all radiocarbon dates from MediterraneanAfrica, brought together for the first time. The principal exploration then divides into three phases.During Phase 1 (9600-6200 bc) diverse forms of hunting, gathering and foraging were ubiquitous.Phase 2 (6200-4000 bc) witnessed more continuity than elsewhere in the Mediterranean, but also thewidespread uptake of domesticated livestock and gradual evolution of herding societies, as well as limitedenclaves of farming. Phase 3 (4000-1000 bc) has been least explored, outside developments in Egypt; inthe east this phase witnessed the emergence of fully nomadic and transhumant pastoralism, with politicalsuperstructures, while trajectories in the west remain obscure, but in parts of the Maghreb suggest complexpossibilities. Contacts with the Mediterranean maritime world grew during the third and second millenniabc, while interaction to the south was transformed by desertification. Understanding how the southernMediterranean shore was drawn into Iron Age networks will require much better knowledge of its indigenoussocieties. The present constitutes a pivotal moment, in terms of accumulated knowledge, pathways forfuture investigation and engagement with a challenging current geopolitical situation.

Author: Cyprian Broodbank, Giulio Lucarini

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