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The western quest, First and Second Regional Acheuleans at Thomas-Oulad Hamida Quarries (Casablanca, Morocco)


Abstract and Figures

In the Mio-Plio-Pleistocene sequence of Casablanca which covers the last six millions years, the oldest lithic assemblages are found in late Lower Pleistocene deposits, circa 1 Ma, in unit L of Thomas Quarry I, and consist of artefacts made from quartzite and flint. They document the First Regional Acheulean (FRA). More recent units from Thomas – Oulad Hamida and Sidi Abderrahmane Quarries yielded numerous remains of Homo heidelbergensis/rhodesiensis and lithic techno-complexes which characterize the Second Regional Acheulean (SRA) variability. This bi-partition of the Regional Acheulean offers useful data for comparison with other areas of Africa and Middle East where hominids appeared and developed and should be considered in the debate about the earliest occupations of Europe. Keywords: First and Second Regional Acheulean, Lithic assemblages, Thomas and Oulad Hamida Quarries, Casablanca, Morocco.
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In the Mio-Plio-Pleistocene sequence of Casa-
blanca which covers the last six millions years, the
oldest lithic assemblages are found in late Lower
Pleistocene deposits, circa 1 Ma, in unit L of Tho-
mas Quarry I, and consist of artefacts made from
quartzite and int. They document the First Regio-
nal Acheulean (FRA). More recent units from Tho-
mas - Oulad Hamida and Sidi Abderrahmane
Quarries yielded numerous remains of Homo hei-
delbergensis/rhodesiensis and lithic techno-com-
plexes which characterize the Second Regional
Acheulean (SRA) variability. This bi-partition of
the Regional Acheuleans offers useful data for com-
parison with other areas of Africa and Middle East
where hominids appeared and developed and
should be considered in the debate about the earliest
occupations of Europe.
The Maghreb is rich in testimonies of ancient po-
pulations. Numerous works carried out in Morocco
since the beginning of the last century have yielded
highly signicant results about Quaternary stratigra-
phy and Prehistory, Palaeontology and Paleoanthro-
pology as well (see Biberson, 1961a and b). However,
many questions concerning the very rst peopling of
the extreme Northwest of Africa still remain unans-
wered. If an old human presence is indisputable and
if we can assume that it could be even older, we still
ignore how and when hominins came and which
route they followed. Most of the propositions on this
topic remains widely speculative.
The Casablanca coast has been slowly uplifting
since the end of the Miocene and a huge piling of
marine and continental formations has preserved an
exceptional record (Fig. 1). The Casablanca long se-
quence begins nearly 6 Ma ago in the Upper Miocene
and spreads over the Plio-Quaternary times with an
extremely detailed registration of the global climatic
cycles (Biberson 1961a; Stearns 1978; Raynal et al.
1995, 1999; Lefèvre 2000; Lefèvre and Raynal 2002).
In the upper Early and Middle Pleistocene por-
tion of this late sequence, controlled excavations
were performed in the archaeological sites of Sidi
Abderrahmane and mainly Thomas-Oulad Hamida
Quarries within the France-Morocco cooperative
program Casablanca associating the French ar-
chaeological “Mission littoral” (Ministère des Af-
faires Etrangères et du Développement International)
and the Moroccan National Institute of Archaeo-
logy and Heritage Sciences (Ministry of Culture).
They have yielded rich lithic assemblages that repre-
sent the only North Africa First Acheulean recor-
ded in an undisputable stratigraphic context (Raynal
and Texier, 1989; Raynal et al. 2001). In previous pa-
pers, we used, without a great conviction, a classical
subdivision of the regional Acheulean in three
stages, i.e. lower, middle and upper Acheulean. We
prefer here to consider two groups on stratigraphic
and chronologic basis: First Regional Acheulean
(FRA) and Second Regional Acheulean (SRA)
(Raynal et al. in press). When necessary, we will
refer to the different units of the New Casablanca
Lithostratigraphic Scale (NCLS) which synthetize
all observations and interpretations (Texier et al.,
1994, 2002; Lefèvre, 2000; Lefèvre and Raynal op
cit) (Fig. 5).
In the introduction, we will briey question the
supposedly pre-Acheulean artefacts in Western Mo-
rocco and then present the key-sites for FRA and
SRA at Casablanca.
Before the Acheulean: facts and geofacts
At Ahl-Al-Oughlam (108 m a.s.l.), formerly
known as Déprez quarry (Biberson, 1961a and b),
quarry works cut a paleo-shoreline containing some
collapsed caves and shelters at the foot of a fossil
cliff (Ahl Al Oughlam morpho-sedimentary unit, sub-
unit 2 - Lefèvre and Raynal, op cit). Inside the s-
sures was discovered an extremely abundant faunal
material which presents many similarities with those
The western quest, First and Second Regional Acheuleans at Thomas-Oulad Hamida Quarries (Casablanca, Morocco)
The western quest, First and Second Regional Acheuleans at Thomas-Oulad
Hamida Quarries (Casablanca, Morocco).
Jean-Paul Raynal1, 2 , Rosalia Gallotti1, 3 , Abderrahim Mohib4, Paul Fernandes1, 5 & David Lefèvre6
1Université de Bordeaux, France.
2Department of Human Evolution, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany.
3Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Antichità - Università di Roma La Sapienza, Italy.
4Ministère de la Culture, Kénitra, 14000, Morocco.
5SARL Paléotime, France.
6Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3- CNRS - MCC, UMR 5140, Archéologie des Sociétés méditerra-
néennes, Campus Saint Charles, France.
- 309 -
of Eastern Africa and implies that frequent ex-
changes took place before and during this period,
at 2.4-2.5 Ma, during a great aridity crisis. Ahl al
Oughlam has not yielded hominin remains, when at
the same time East Africa abounds in sites with ho-
minins (see Raynal et al. 1990 and Geraads et al.
1998 for more references). The Ahl-Al-Oughlam
quarry was made famous by Biberson who found in
its basal conglomerate (Ahl Al Oughlam morpho-se-
dimentary Unit, sub-unit 1 - Lefèvre and Raynal, op
cit) elements referred to the local Pebble Culture:
these pieces were actually geofacts shaped by the
mechanical stir in the marine Pliocene deposits
(Raynal and Texier, 1989); some geofacts have be-
sides been discovered in other localities of Casa-
blanca Pliocene deposits, at Bir As Smar quarry for
example (Oulad Malik morpho-sedimentary Unit -
Lefèvre and Raynal, op cit).
Moreover, all the series previously described as
Pebble Culture, then as Pre-Acheulean (Biberson op
cit and 1967), whether at Casablanca, in the Rabat
and Rharb regions, or in the Tangier peninsula, pro-
ved to be either recent artefacts, or simply geofacts
(see Raynal et al. 2002a and b for more details and
references). Arbaoua gravel-beds supposed to have
yielded the oldest Pebble-culture (Biberson, 1961a
and b) « attest a period of erosion and high power
transportation .../...which material were certainly af-
fected by several reworking phases before their nal
setting up» (Aberkan, 1989: 250); this sedimentary
context easily explains the few pieces discovered at
the upper part of the gravels which, without in the
slightest doubt, must be considered as geofacts. The
revision of the Tardiguet er Rhala site (El Hajraoui,
1985; Texier et al. 1992) demonstrated that undoub-
tedly aked pieces (Biberson, op cit) were included
in colluviums of the weathered Pliocene substratum.
The implements of the Salé plateau gravel-beds,
mostly collected out of stratigraphic context, come
from recent ferruginate units (Texier et al. op cit).
The series collected in undated colluviums at dif-
ferent places during civil engineering in Rabat (Bi-
berson, 1961; Souville, 1973) and new ones cannot
be considered as “Oldowan” artefacts. Neither can
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Jean-Paul Raynal, Rosalia Gallotti, Abderrahim Mohib, Paul Fernandes & David Lefèvre
Figure 1: General map of the Mio-Plio-Pleistocene formations presereved at Casablanca showing location of the main Acheulean
localities: SAR for Sidi Abderrahmane Quarries and OH-TH for Oulad Hamida - Thomas Quarries (after Lefèvre and Raynal, 2002).
Bottom left; the sites of the Sidi-Abderrahman-Thomas-Oulad Hamida area.
the pebble-tools found at Casablanca in intertidal
formations of middle-nal Pleistocene? Maybe
Middle-Upper reworking older fossil beaches and
containing lower to middle Acheulean artefacts
(basal conglomerate at Sidi-Abderrahmane-Exten-
sion for example), or those from colluviums resul-
ting from recent morphogenetic phases reworking
red soils, in which Acheulean and Aterian imple-
ments can be found: Sidi Abderrahmane-Grande
exploitation quarry unit 4 (Raynal and Texier, 1984)
and Schneider quarry at the Maarif-Aéroport for
instance (Biberson op. cit.).
East of Rabat in the Mamora, recent works have
demonstrated the existence of an Acheulean facies
very poor in handaxes and roughly shaped on peb-
bles, as in layer 3 at Daya El Hamra (El Hajraoui et
al. 1984; El Hajraoui 1985). In this area exist also
Middle Stone Age facies (“Aterian”) rich in pebble
tools similar to those of the Chaperon Rouge I
(Texier, 1986) and Chaperon Rouge II sites (Texier
et al. 1982; Habboun, 1991).
Beyond these simple convergences of technologic
facies, not a single element in Atlantic Morocco can
nowadays substantiate the existence of Oldowan -
in the complete sense of the term - both chronolo-
gical and technological. This enlightens the diffe-
rences observed by H. Roche (1980) when she
compared Morocco and Olduvai series. As J. Cha-
vaillon underlined (2003: 64-65) « absence of han-
daxes in an assemblage is sometimes used to dene
such or such Palaeolithic, either older than Acheulean
(Oldowan) or more recent. Yet, Lower Acheulean li-
thic assemblages, often poor in bifaces or Developped
Oldowan in which archaic bifaces are very rarely re-
presented can pose a labelling problem. These ar-
chaeological assemblages are besides both composed
pebble-tools, among others, that H. Movius named «
chopper » and « chopping-tool » after Chicago slaugh-
terhouses. The presence or absence of one biface can
type the assemblage, but this process is incorrect. If
one handaxe or cleaver can at a pinch justify the at-
tribution to the Acheulean, other criterions are needed
to fully demonstrate a cultural belonging: technical,
paleontological, palethnological... Moreover, an ab-
sence of some type of artefactt is no more no less does
not allow any labelling. This « proof by absence » is
rather often found in very serious books. There is no
handaxes, it is then an Oldowan assemblage ! ». It will
therefore be advisable in the future to better examine
the wide variability of the technocomplexes « with
handaxes » of the Moroccan Acheulean and beyond
of the African Acheulean, if possible along with pa-
laeo-environmental and taphonomic data and even
better, palaeo-anthropological ones.
The rst regional Acheulean at Casablanca
Thomas Quarry layer L
In 1985, some Acheulean artefacts embedded in
a yellow calcareous deposit under a very thick dunar
complex were identied at the base of the south-eas-
tern wall of the quarry (Raynal and Texier, 1989).
An excavation began in 1989 and nowadays, Tho-
mas Quarry I presents two interesting places: Layer
L with FRA occupations, probably one million
years even more, outcropping on 1000 m2and the
Hominid Cave complex, noticeably more recent, on
about 150 m2(fFig. 2).
Figure 2: Thomas I Quarry. Layer L with FRAassemblage
exposed and partly excavated and the Hominid Cave complex
containing SRA assemblage open in the north wall (photo J.P.
In layer L, which is a complex of swampy-lagu-
nal deposits with a sedimentation becoming eolian
at the top, the archaeology is limited to occupations
named L1 and L5, that is to say at the base (L1) an
Acheulean rich in handaxes and trihedrons and at
the top (L5), an assemblage with various cores
(some biface-like ones), pebble-tools, akes and
some tools on akes. Artefacts from Unit L1 have
been subject to reworking processes linked to tem-
porary water ows, as attested by their partial re-
orientation of and the washing-out of small bone
splinters as well as micro-akes. But in Unit L5, the
smallest akes are preserved in eolian sands. In
Africa, assemblage composition varies with the
tools position, in wadis major beds or in ood plain
sediments for example and Thomas Quarry does
not escape from this rule.
L1 and L5 implements are mainly shaped on
local quartzites. In L1 assemblage we nd true tri-
hedrons and handaxes. Handaxes were shaped on
pebbles and on akes. Their morphology varies
(Fig. 3) and corresponds to particular technics of
production and uses: there are bifaces with terminal
spatulate bevel, very pointed bifaces, picks… All
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The western quest, First and Second Regional Acheuleans at Thomas-Oulad Hamida Quarries (Casablanca, Morocco)
these heavy duty tools morphologies may illustrate
different subsistence activities (carcasses processing
and butchery?). We also nd true spheroids and
sub-spheroids, a huge variety of polyedrons/polyhe-
dric cores and small int pebbles broken by bipolar
aking; some of the akes produced have been
found and bear some use-wear but their function re-
mains completely unknown. The knapping activi-
ties took place on the spot as demonstrated by the
presence of complete or broken hammerstones. The
aking and shaping process characterize several
chaînes opératoires: some are aimed to the produc-
tion of large akes (splitting of cobbles, prepared
cores) and the shaping (façonnage) and retouching
- 312 -
Jean-Paul Raynal, Rosalia Gallotti, Abderrahim Mohib, Paul Fernandes & David Lefèvre
Figure 3: Thomas I Quarry layer L: bifacial pieces of the FRA (drawings M. Hirbec-Raynal).
of cleavers and hand-axes, others are dedicated to
the production of akes from polyedric (multifa-
cial), peripheral, centripetal and true discoid cores.
Most of the akes have been used without retou-
ching and the few retouched tools are denticulates
(Raynal et al. 2001, 2002a and b). This assemblage
is quite similar to that of Ubeidiya in Israel (Goren,
1981; Bar Yosef and Goren-Inbar, 1993) which is
placed by biochronology ca. 1.4 Ma (Eisenmann et
al. 1983) and possibly that of Kesem-Kebena in
Ethiopia, dated ca. 1.0 Ma (Woldegabriel et al.
1992) but for which we lack detailed informations.
Several arguments, lithostratigraphic, paleonto-
logical and indications of inverse paleomagnetism,
lead us to place the lower Acheulean of Thomas I
(layer L1) between 1 and 1.4 millions years (Fig.5).
A SAR OSL date (Rhodes et al. 2006) gives an age
estimate of 0,99 ± 0,21 Ma, which is in good agree-
ment with other data.
We observe here a non-bifacial Acheulean facies
above a classical Acheulean facies. Elsewhere in East
Africa Oldowan assemblages can be relatively
young, such as at NY 18 in Uganda, dated to 1.5
Ma, where artifacts are very similar to the industry
of Thomas Quarry 1 Unit L5 (Texier, 1995), or even
much younger, as at Bodo, where Oldowan assem-
blages are dated to ca. 0.64 Ma (Clark et al. 1994);
some authors would say that we have here an assem-
blage of “Mode 1” above another of “Mode 2”, but
this is really poorly informative regarding the com-
plexity of stone-use strategies of Plio-Pleistocene
hominins and a more technologically oriented ap-
proach to Acheulean and Oldowan stone tool pro-
duction is a better way of investigation (Semaw et
al. 1997; Roche et al. 1999 ; de la Torre 2004 ; De-
lagnes and Roche 2005; Braun et al. 2008).
Possible cultural reasons for this variability
among Acheulean assemblages must also be consi-
dered. When not due to the nature of the raw mate-
rial, the variation may be connected with peculiar
functional situations, such as hominid adaptive
reactions to environmental and/or microenviron-
mental changes resulting from limited or global cli-
matic changes, as pointed out in East Africa at
Olorgesailie (Isaac 1966, 1977), Kilombe (Gowlett
1988) and Bodo (Clark et al. 1994).
Other sites
Sidi Abderrahmane Quarry at Casablanca, the
classical site for Moroccan Ancient Prehistory, is a
protected area since 1951. As soon as 1941, Neuville
and Ruhlmann had discovered at its base, in layer
M, an assemblage largely shaped on feldspathic
sandstones that they qualied as « Clacto-Abbevi-
lian ». It contained Acheulean forms (trihedrons, va-
rious handaxes, cleavers, spheroïds), large akes (the
“Clactonian” component) and various forms of
pebble tools, associated with an abundant fauna but
little varied, very fragmentary and dominated by
Hippopotamus (Neuville et Ruhlmann, 1941a and b;
Neuville, 1951).
This industry was considered for a long time as
the oldest of the Acheulean sequence at Casablanca
and represented stages I and II of the lower Acheu-
lean, distinguished after the wear of artefacts (Bi-
berson, 1961). This assemblage belongs probably to
the bottom part of the Anfa Formation (Texier et
al. 2002) with an age older than 0.5 Ma. It is a an
Acheulean facies which wrongly « archaic »aspect
is undoubtedly the expression of a simplied tech-
nology massively oriented to large akes production
(direct or bipolar) (Mohib, 1991) and applied to an
abundant raw material at disposal for butchery pur-
poses and carcasses exploitation activities. It marks
the end of the lower Acheulean, as does the assem-
blage of the nearby STIC Quarry.
Layer D of the STIC quarry was located beyond
the south extremity of Sidi Abderrahmane-Grande
Exploitation quarry. Its layer D yielded a rich ma-
terial aked on quartzites rich in various types of
handaxes with cleavers, trihedrons, bifacial cores
(SSDA), polyhedral (multifacial) cores and a few
bolas, which allowed to dene the stage III of the
lower Acheulean (Biberson, 1961b). Some of these
pieces are in every respect identical to those of the L
layer of Thomas I Quarry overhanging the STIC.
We c ou ld s us p ec t e ro sio n al p ro c es ses of lay er L a n d
a natural mixing of series, sustained by the existence
of a karstic gallery, but this is now impossible to
check since the STIC Quarry has been recently com-
pletely lled up. The associated faunal remains be-
long in their majority to big mammals (rhinoceros,
hippopotamus and elephant). Tools and fauna point
then in favour of a site of butchery and carcass pro-
Layer M at Sidi Abderrahmane and STIC layer
D represent the most recent facies of the FRA. They
both belong to the bottom units of the Anfa Forma-
tion (NCLS), older than 0.5 Ma (isotopic stages
14/16). This is conrmed by an age of 492 ± 57 ka
(Rhodes et al. 2006) obtained from the bottom of
Member 2 of the Anfa Formation (NCLS) on back-
shore sands.
The second regional Acheulean at Casa-
In Thomas Quarries I and III, a polyphase sho-
reline was hollowed in the cemented Members 1 and
- 313 -
The western quest, First and Second Regional Acheuleans at Thomas-Oulad Hamida Quarries (Casablanca, Morocco)
2 of the Oulad Hamida Formation (NCLS) during
two successive high marine stands (MIS 21 and 19?).
Lithic assemblages, fauna and hominid fossils were
discovered in the caves associated to this shoreline.
At Sidi Abderrahmane, some assemblages and ho-
minid fossils were discovered in caves associated to
the “Anfatian” shoreline (Biberson, 1961a and b):
the most famous are the Littorines Cave in which
were discovered some fragments of the Sidi Abder-
rahmane human fossil (Biberson, 1956), the Bears
Cave and Cap Chatelier. Actually, two marine
stands and their deposits (Members 3 and 4 of the
Anfa Formation) (Texier et al. 2002) have been re-
corded using the same polyphase notch during high
marine stands related to MIS 13 and 11. All assem-
blages from these sites and that of Sidi Abderrah-
mane-Extension characterize the SRA in its
- 314 -
Jean-Paul Raynal, Rosalia Gallotti, Abderrahim Mohib, Paul Fernandes & David Lefèvre
Figure 4: Oulad Hamida 1 Quarry - Rhinoceros cave, lower layer: bifaces of the SRA (drawings M. Hirbec-Raynal).
Hominid Cave at Thomas Quarry I
Disorganised collections of fauna and industry
occurred in this quarry until 1963, when a human
mandible was discovered by Philippe Beriro (En-
nouchi 1969). More human fossils have been disco-
vered since and are referred to Homo heidelbergen-
sis/rhodesiensis(Raynal et al. 2010). As observed in
ancient collections (Geraads et al. 1980) and conr-
med by modern excavations, the lithic assemblage
is manufactured on various quartzites with very few
int objects. It consists mainly in pebble-tools (chop-
pers and chopping-tools) and core tools, akes and
very rare small bifaces. The fauna is very well pre-
- 315 -
The western quest, First and Second Regional Acheuleans at Thomas-Oulad Hamida Quarries (Casablanca, Morocco)
Figure 5:The Casablanca archaeological evidences replaced within the New Casablanca Lithostratigraphic Scale (NCLS).
served and is dominated by carnivores (Bernoussi,
1994, 1997) which are the rst agents for the bone
accumulation in the site. In some parts of the cave,
artefacts, fauna remains and human fossils have
been mixed by run-off. OSL measurements provided
an age estimate ca 0.4 Ma (Rhodes et al. 2006) and
a direct dating at 0.5 Ma was obtained on one ho-
minid premolar (Raynal et al. 2010).
Rhinoceros Cave at Oulad Hamida 1 Quarry
This site was discovered in 1991 in an extension
of the former Thomas III Quarry (Raynal et al.
1993; Rhodes et al. 1994). It is a marine cave belon-
ging to one of the paleo-shores subsequent to the
Member 1 of the Oulad Hamida Formation (NCLS)
and thus shaped prior to the Anfa Group edica-
The assemblage was manufactured mainly with
different varieties of quartzite and a few int nodules
(Fernandes et al. in press). The macro-industry com-
prises handaxes of various morphologies and dimen-
sions (Fig. 4), as well as rare cleavers and pebble tools;
the micro-industry is mainly made of raw akes that,
apart from those coming from the shaping of bifacial
pieces, were produced by discoid (unifacial and bifa-
cial), polyhedric (multifacial) and SSDA aking, not
any evidence of Levallois aking has for now been
identied; retouched akes are rare, notches and den-
ticulates are a majority and little diversied. This is a
rather banal and frequent composition described in
the literature for various Acheulean sites in Africa but
also Middle Pleistocene European ones. Fire still does
not seem to be used: not any burnt bones remain nor
charcoal was discovered.
The fauna proved to be extremely rich in white
rhinoceros possibly exploited by man, even if many
carnivores played a part in this accumulation.
Nearly fty Vertebrate species were discovered indi-
cating a noticeably more arid climate than now (Ge-
raads, 1993b, 1994; Bernoussi, 1994, 1997). The
lithostratigraphy, microfauna and datings lead to
place this assemblage close to that of the Hominid
Cave of Thomas I Quarry. ESR datings however in-
dicate an age estimate whithin the range of 435-737
ka, limits provided by early and linear uptake model
ages, respectively (Rhodes et al. 2006).
Bears cave at Sidi Abderrahmane
The main part of the lling of this cavity is a ma-
rine deposit forming the lower part of Member 4 of
the Anfa Formation (NCLS). Prior to its setting, the
back of the cave was inhabited in alternance by car-
nivores and humans. Tidal process have mixed for-
mer beach and cave deposits and pushed them
several times inside the cavity.
The archaeological material shows different de-
grees of wear. It was considered as middle Acheu-
lean (stage V) by P. Biberson (1961b). Bears Cave
assemblages show the use of very large discoid
cores for the production of large akes (blanks for
handaxes and cleavers) and some smaller and of bi-
facial type, the absence of Levallois core and the
production of complete or partial bifacial pieces,
often symmetric (Mohib, 2001). This Acheulean is
probably contemporaneous with the top of Mem-
ber 3 of the Anfa Formation (NCLS) referred to
MIS 12.
Sidi Abderrahmane Cunette
In the northern part of Sidi Abderrahmane
quarry, Littorines cave was discovered and yielded
in 1955 in unit F the fragmentary remains of the
Sidi Abderrahmane Atlanthropus (Biberson, 1956).
The assemblage was attributed to the Middle
Acheulean (stage VI) by P. Biberson (1961b).
Along the west wall of the « Cunette », Cap Cha-
telier is another site belonging to the “Anfatian” sho-
reline. The assemblage from Biberson’s layer D2
comprises bifaces of various dimensions and mor-
phologies, sometimes very thin, some cleavers and a
ake production processed from discoid and levallois
with preferential removal. It was considered as evol-
ved Acheulean (stage VIII) by P. Biberson (1961b).
Cap Chatelier deposits are capped by an uppermost
dune visible in the Cunette wall, which provided an
age estimate of 376 ± 34 ka (Rhodes et al. 2006), in
accordance with the lithostratigraphic context.
Sidi Abderrahmane-Extension
Beyond the southwestern extremity of Sidi Ab-
derrahmane-Grande Exploitation was Sidi Abder-
rahmane-Extension Quarry. Pierre Biberson had
made of it the type locality for his evolved Acheu-
lean (stage VII) that he placed before layer D2 of
Cap Chatelier. Excavations have shown the exis-
tence of two archaeological layers. The upper layer
(4 base) yielded an abundant material rich in han-
daxes of various types, often with a terminal bevel.
Along with discoid unifacial and bifacial cores
there are a few predetermined-cores with preferen-
tial removal. Lithostratigraphic studies demonstra-
ted that Sidi Abderrahmane-Extension deposits lie
at the top of the Oulad Aj Jmel Member of the Kef
El Haroun Formation (NCLS) which gives an age
estimate of 303 ± 30 ka (Rhodes et al. 2006). At the
moment, the assemblage of layer 4 base at Sidi Ab-
derrahmane Extension is the youngest Acheulean
in the Casablanca sequence.
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Jean-Paul Raynal, Rosalia Gallotti, Abderrahim Mohib, Paul Fernandes & David Lefèvre
The Pre-Acheulean ancient stages recognized by
Biberson do not exist and they are actually geofacts,
or more recent industries: there is no yet known Ol-
dowan (in the chronological sense of the word) in
Atlantic Morocco.
The FRA is only known in open air sites with ex-
ploitation of very big fauna (Thomas I L1, STIC,
Sidi Abderrahmane M...). Assemblages are rich in
bifacial macro-implement and cleavers or in small
aking products (Thomas I L5). The morphological
variability of the retouched parts expresses a prede-
termination for specialised activities. Finally, many
bifacial pieces are managed as cores, even as percus-
sors, and bear in embryo the schemes of preparation
and exploitation of cores with predetermined pos-
terior akes.The First Acheulean occurs at a least
ca 1 Ma at Thomas I Quarry (unit L), may be soo-
ner (1.4 Ma at most) and its last terms are represen-
ted by the assemblages from Unit M of Sidi
Abderrhamane-Grande Exploitation and from Unit
D at the STIC quarry, both older than 0.5 Ma.
Sharon (2007, 2010) identied a stage within the
Acheulean techno-complex, called Large Flake
Acheulian (LFA), as a “distinct segment in the
Acheulian techno-complex that is technologically
and typologically distinguishable from others” (Sha-
ron 2010, p. 228)
LFA assemblages from a very wide geographical
and even chronological range are grouped together,
following these criteria.
- most part of the bifaces blanks are large akes
detached from giant cores;
- giant cores were akes through predetermined
methods (Sharon 2009);
- large ake production shows a propensity for
coarse-grained rock types rather than from ne-
grained raw materials (Sharon 2008);
- most bifaces and cleavers were shaped with
minimal retouch of the ventral face thinning the
ake blank’s butt-bulb, given the high degree of
predetermination of the blanks;
- LFA assemblages contain signicant frequencies
of cleavers (Tixier 1956);
- most bifaces have pointed tips, whereas broad-
tipped ovate bifaces are rare.
LFA is predated in Africa and Levant by a phase
of early Acheulean, older than 1 Ma, when large
akes do not constitute a primary technological
praxis and cleavers are absent. Following Sharon,
the lithic series from Unit L of Thomas 1 Quarry
corresponds to this pre-LFA stage. LFA appears in
East Africa around 1 Ma and has a long duration,
up to the very last stages of its existence.
On the contrary, in the Sahara, North Africa and
the Iberian Peninsula, the chronological and cultu-
ral sequences of the LFA are unclear. As pointed by
Sharon (2010), absolute dates are rare, and the cul-
tural sequences are largely based on typological cor-
Large ake blanks are a major component in all
of the North African Middle Pleistocene sites stu-
died by Sharon (Sidi Abderrahman, Grotte des
Ours, STIC Quarry, Ternine, Tachenghit) and
most of these sites included cleavers as a signicant
part of their assemblage.
In addition, Sharon (2011) assessed that Iberian
Middle Pleistocene Acheulean nds its origin in the
Northern African one. This hypothesis is based on
the presence of a specic technical behaviour, i.e. the
éclat d’entame method, identied rstly at Ternine.
A cobble was struck once at a precise location on
the cortex at an obtuse angle…. The strike produced
a blank that was perfectly suited to handaxe produc-
tion…, with minimal necessity, if at all, of secon-
dary retouch. This method was highly controlled,
due to the meticulous attention paid both to raw
material block size and shape selection and to the
systematic removal of a single, preplanned primary
ake” (Sharon 2011, p. 128). In a second stage of
production, Kombewa akes were detached from
entame akes. Cleavers manufactured from these
blanks have been reported in the aforementioned
Acheulean assemblages from North Africa and
from the Iberian Peninsula (Alimen 1978; Balout et
al. 1967; Santonja and Villa 1990; Raposo and San-
tonja 1995; Mourre 2003; Méndez-Quintas et al.
2006; Arroyo and Torre, 2013; García-Moreno et al.
2014; Sharon and Barsky in press). Nevertheless, as
pointed by Santonja and Villa (2006), the known
Middle Pleistocene sites of the Iberian Peninsula ap-
pear in uvial deposits, whose chronostratigraphies
are debatable. LFA had disappeared by 0.5 Ma from
North Africa, and from Levant as well, when non-
large ake based Acheulean industries emerge with
a high preference for int as raw material for bifaces
The SRA presents varied situations. Assemblages
from caves (Thomas I Hominids cave, Rhinoceros
Cave upper layer) are rich in small aking, cores and
core?tools (including aked cobbles with SSDA me-
thod) and associated with an abundant fauna in
which medium and small size mammals have been
hunted and scavenged. Some knapping workshops
- 317 -
The western quest, First and Second Regional Acheuleans at Thomas-Oulad Hamida Quarries (Casablanca, Morocco)
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Jean-Paul Raynal, Rosalia Gallotti, Abderrahim Mohib, Paul Fernandes & David Lefèvre
exist in open-air localities (Sidi Al Khadir-Helaoui),
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This exceptionnal sequence must from now on,
considering its richness, be taken into account at the
same rank than those from Eastern and Southern
Africa, Europe, Middle East or Asia.
The chronological framework necessary for cor-
relations with other African zones for now on not
only rests on a reliable biostratigraphical scale, that
an intensication of researches will make more de-
tailed (gure 5), but has been recently strengthened
by a series of absolute datings by different methods.
An effort has still to be made to obtain more datings
and to establish a paleomagnetic framework. Homi-
nins fossils are still rare but new ndings have re-
cently occurred in an stratigraphic context: from the
point of view of human evolution, Thomas I and
Oulad Hamida 1 quarries are undisputably the most
important site complex in North West Africa.
Future researches will have to establish the na-
ture of the relations with East Africa, Middle East
and more widely Eurasia.
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Supplementary resource (1)

... quarries (Raynal et al. 2017). For diagnostic characters of the FRA, see Sidi Abderrahmane chapter in this volume. ...
... The bifacial pieces indicate that the quartzite blanks were processed outside of the cave to obtain LCTs and heavy pointed tools. Subsequently, the inhabitants transported the products to the site (Raynal et al. 2017). Figure 11. ...
... quarries (Raynal et al. 2017). For diagnostic characters of the FRA, see Sidi Abderrahmane chapter in this volume. ...
... The bifacial pieces indicate that the quartzite blanks were processed outside of the cave to obtain LCTs and heavy pointed tools. Subsequently, the inhabitants transported the products to the site (Raynal et al. 2017). Figure 11. ...
Full-text available
To appear in Handbook of Pleistocene Archaeology of Africa, Volume 1, chapter 54. Editors: Amanuel Beyin, David K. Wright, Jayne Wilkins, and Deborah I. Olszewski Publisher: Springer Nature, Cham, Switzerland. ISBN-13: 978-3031202896
... Here we discuss the latest state of research conducted at the SAR Quarries since 1978 within the frame of a Morocco-France joint archaeological research p r e p r i n t f i n a l a c c e p t e d 5 program. This program allowed the team to refine the stratigraphy of the key localities in the SAR area, specifically, Grotte des Ours, Cap Chatelier and SAR Extension (Raynal et al. 2001(Raynal et al. , 2017, Figure 4. The other sites have been destroyed by quarrying activity and just a few are now preserved within the Sidi Abderrahmane Prehistoric Park (Fig. 5). ...
... Our excavations (1978)(1979)(1980)(1981) p r e p r i n t f i n a l a c c e p t e d al. 1986 (Fig. 13). The represented core types include, discoidal, unifacial and bifacial, and a few predetermined cores with preferential flake removals (Debénath et al. 1986;Raynal et al. 2017). At present, the assemblage from the base of Unit 4 at SAR Extension is the youngest Acheulean within the Casablanca Acheulean sequence. ...
Full-text available
To appear in: Handbook of Pleistocene Archaeology of Africa, Volume 1, chapter 53. Editors: Amanuel Beyin, David K. Wright, Jayne Wilkins, and Deborah I. Olszewski. Publisher: Springer Nature, Cham, Switzerland. ISBN-13: 978-3031202896
... While the different aspects of the site and the first absolute ages for the Moroccan Acheulean were published in the early 1990s (Geraads 1993(Geraads , 1994Raynal et al. 1993;Rhodes et al. 1994), a large synthesis of the 1991-1996 excavations was published in 2016 . Having yielded one of the richest faunal assemblage for the Middle Pleistocene in North Africa (Geraads 1993(Geraads , 1994(Geraads , 2002(Geraads , 2010 coupled with the abundant lithic artifacts recovered in close association with the fauna, GDR was chosen to serve as the type-locality for the Second Regional Acheulean (SRA) (Raynal et al. 2016a(Raynal et al. , 2017. The cave was used as a food consumption site by both carnivores and hominins (Campmas and Daujeard 2020;Daujeard et al. 2012;Raynal et al. 1993). ...
... Moreover, proximal parts of bifaces often bear percussion marks demonstrating their multifunctional role. A quick glimpse of handaxe morphologies shows that elongated specimens are dominant and more retouched than in the First Regional Acheulean (FRA) as defined at Thomas Quarry I Unit L(Raynal et al., 2017). OH1-GDR. ...
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To appear in: Handbook of Pleistocene Archaeology of Africa, Volume 1, chapter 49. Editors: Amanuel Beyin, David K. Wright, Jayne Wilkins, and Deborah I. Olszewski. Publisher: Springer Nature, Cham, Switzerland. ISBN-13: 978-3031202896
... 42 Occhietti S. et al., 1993et 2002, Rhodes E. et al., 2006 , Lefèvre et al., 2016a et b, Texier J.-P. et al., 1994et 2002. 44 Raynal J.-P. et al., 1996Raynal J.-P. et al., , 2001Raynal J.-P. et al., , 2002Raynal J.-P. et al., , 2009Raynal J.-P. et al., , 2016Raynal J.-P. et al., et 2017. 45 Biberson P. 1961a. ...
... The later Acheulean at Cap Chatelier and Sidi Abderrhamane-Extension, in the Casablanca sequence in Morocco, indicate for example an extensive use of the Levallois method, especially the lineal mode, for the production of flake tools from at least 0.35 ma (e.g. Raynal et al. 2017). Later Acheulean contexts from NW Sahara (e.g. ...
The area encompassing the Acacus and Messak mountains in South Western Libya, similarly to the other central Saharan massifs, is characterized by a deeply eroded landscape where Quaternary geo-archaeological archives are rare, especially Pleistocene ones, making it difficult to understand and contextualize past human dynamics within a solid chrono-paleoenvironmental framework. Except for the few caves and open-air contexts where Pleistocene sedimentary sequences are preserved, the vast majority of archaeological evidence from the region is represented by lithic artefacts found on the surface of deflated open-air sites. Nonetheless, artefacts still stand as the main references used to build a rough framework for population dynamics through time. Although the evidence is not as solid as we would like, it allows us to at least reconsider connecting the human presence solely to ‘green’ phases, as a number of population dynamics related to arid landscapes have inferably occurred in the late Middle Pleistocene and in the Late Pleistocene. Coping with changing or difficult ecological settings could have been a driver at different times for behavioral adjustment, large scale displacement, increased interactions between populations and diffusion of technological innovations.
... 42 Occhietti S. et al., 1993et 2002, Rhodes E. et al., 2006 , Lefèvre et al., 2016a et b, Texier J.-P. et al., 1994et 2002. 44 Raynal J.-P. et al., 1996Raynal J.-P. et al., , 2001Raynal J.-P. et al., , 2002Raynal J.-P. et al., , 2009Raynal J.-P. et al., , 2016Raynal J.-P. et al., et 2017. 45 Biberson P. 1961a. ...
Conference Paper
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La succession de paléolittoraux de Casablanca représente une séquence d’une richesse exceptionnelle qui couvre les six derniers millions d’années. La lecture séquentielle des enregistrements, la caractérisation des environnements de dépôts et des données bio et géochronologiques permettent de proposer un cadre chronostratigraphique cohérent qui repose sur l’identification de séquences sédimentaires majeures enregistrant les hauts stationnements marins corrélatifs des grands cycles glacio-eustatiques. La richesse des enregistrements fait de la chronostratigraphie de Casablanca le système de référence du Quaternaire littoral du domaine atlantique marocain et offre un cadre nouveau pour la Préhistoire ancienne régionale. - The succession of palaeo-shorelines at Casablanca represents an exceptional sequence covering the last six million years. The sequential reading of the records, the characterization of the depositional environments and the bio and geochronological data make it possible to propose a coherent chronostratigraphic framework based on the identification of major sedimentary sequences recording the correlative high marine stands of the major glacio-eustatic cycles. The Casablanca sequence is the reference system for the coastal Quaternary of the Moroccan Atlantic domain and offers a new framework for the ancient regional Prehistory. - يمثل تعاقب مستويات السواحل القديمة بالدار البيضاء سلسلة فريدة من نوعها تمتد على مدى الستة ملايين سنة الأخيرة. ساعد كل من القراءة التسلسلية للترسبات المحفوظة وتحديد خصائص المحيط البيئي للترسبات وكدا المعطيات البيولوجية والجيو- كرنولوجية على اقتراح إطار كرنو- ستراتيغرافي متجانس يعتمد على تحديد السلسلات الرسوبية الأساسية والتي احتفظت بآثار المستويات البحرية العليا المرتبطة بالأطوار الجليدية الكبرى. بفضل غنى المعطيات المحفوظة، يعتبر الإطار الكرنو- ستراتيغرافي للدار البيضاء النظام المرجعي للرباعي الساحلي بالمغرب الأطلنطي، كما يوفر إطارا جديدا لما قبل التاريخ القديم الجهوي.
Humans evolved in the dynamic landscapes of Africa under conditions of pronounced climatic, geological and environmental change during the past 7 million years. This book brings together detailed records of the paleontological and archaeological sites in Africa that provide the basic evidence for understanding the environments in which we evolved. Chapters cover specific sites, with comprehensive accounts of their geology, paleontology, paleobotany, and their ecological significance for our evolution. Other chapters provide important regional syntheses of past ecological conditions. This book is unique in merging a broad geographic scope (all of Africa) and deep time framework (the past 7 million years) in discussing the geological context and paleontological records of our evolution and that of organisms that evolved alongside our ancestors. It will offer important insights to anyone interested in human evolution, including researchers and graduate students in paleontology, archaeology, anthropology and geology.
Résumé Cet article présente ici un premier examen diachronique de l’usage des silicites par les hominines du Paléolithique ancien et moyen en Meseta marocaine. Une étude approfondie des provenances des différents géo-matériaux utilisés a été menée sur les séries de cinq sites ayant fait l’objet de fouilles récentes, dans le nord de la Meseta, à Casablanca — Unité L et Grotte à Hominidés de la carrière Thomas I, Grotte des Rhinocéros et Grotte des Gazelles — et dans le sud de la Meseta dans la grotte du Djebel Irhoud. Elle montre que les silex du Plateau des Phosphates ont été les plus employés au Maroc atlantique, depuis les premiers moments du Paléolithique ancien (1,3 Ma au moins), mais que leur utilisation prépondérante pour la confection des artefacts lithiques coïncide ici avec l’apparition du MSA (0,35 Ma environ).
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The onset of the Acheulean, marked by the emergence of large cutting tools (LCTs), is considered a major technological advance in the Early Stone Age and a key turning point in human evolution. The Acheulean originated in East Africa at ~ 1.8-1.6 Ma and is reported in South Africa between ~ 1.6 and > 1.0 Ma. The timing of its appearance and development in North Africa have been poorly known due to the near-absence of well-dated sites in reliable contexts. The ~ 1 Ma stone artefacts of Tighennif (Algeria) and Thomas Quarry I-Unit L (ThI-L) at Casablanca (Morocco) are thus far regarded as documenting the oldest Acheulean in North Africa but whatever the precision of their stratigraphical position, both deserve a better chronology. Here we provide a chronology for ThI-L, based on new magnetostratigraphic and geochemical data. Added to the existing lithostratigraphy of the Casablanca sequence, these results provide the first robust chronostratigraphic framework for the early North African Acheulean and firmly establish its emergence in this part of the continent back at least to ~ 1.3 Ma.
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After nearly 150 years of research, many aspects of the emergence of the Acheulian techno-complex in Europe are still under debate. They include: the chronology of the appearance of the Acheulian, its geographical origin, the technology and typology of its assemblages, the actual stages (if any) of its development and the tempo and intensity of its spread into Europe. In this paper, we offer an eastern perspective for exploring these issues. We examine the European evidence in light of the current knowledge of the Lower Paleolithic sequence in the Levant. The primary contribution of this viewpoint is the identification of a ‘Large Flake’ stage within the European Acheulian which, we suggest, should be seen as the earliest stage of the Acheulian presence in this part of the world. While well-defined elsewhere, the Large Flake Acheulian sites of Europe are found primarily in the Iberian Peninsula.We suggest that all other, later, Acheulian sites in the continent can be attributed to the stage defined in the Levant as ‘Late Acheulian’. The resulting chronological and cultural implications are discussed below.
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Littoral deposits of the Casablanca region have provided most of the stratotypes for the Quaternary marine «stages» of the Maghreb. A part of these deposits is the subject here of a new lithostratigraphic approach mainly based on the study of facies association, as well as diagenetic processes. This has permitted the identification of ten (possibly twelve) high-resolution sequences. These units all probably accumulated over the last million years. The sequences are progradational and, most of the time, record a relatively straightforward history. They result from an abrupt rising followed by a gradual falling of the sea level. Sedimentary structures indicate upper shoreface (sometimes), foreshore, backshore and aeolian dune depositional environments. Runoff and mud-or debris-flow are probably the main processes involved in the deposition of the slope deposits intercalated in this stratigraphic series. Moreover, the results show that the classic chronostratigraphic framework so far used in the Maghreb is inadequate because of incorrect correlations and chronological attributions, previously unidentified formations and the definition of distinct «stages» from the same stratigraphic unit. In view of these problems, this classic framework must be abandoned.
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NY 18, the oldest archaeological site known on this part of the Western Rift is dated at 1.5 Ma by a tuff interbedded in lacustrine sediments. Its quartz assemblage is characterized by well organized and well controlled debitage. The evolved characteristics of this assemblage, separate it from the tectonically unelaborated lithic assemblages known circa 2.0 Ma. It fits into the Oldowan assemblages, sensu lato, known between 2.0 and 1.5 Ma. -from Author