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. 2018 Oct 3;13(10):e0202021.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0202021. eCollection 2018.

90,000 Year-Old Specialised Bone Technology in the Aterian Middle Stone Age of North Africa

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Free PMC article

90,000 Year-Old Specialised Bone Technology in the Aterian Middle Stone Age of North Africa

Abdeljalil Bouzouggar et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

The question of cognitive complexity in early Homo sapiens in North Africa is intimately tied to the emergence of the Aterian culture (~145 ka). One of the diagnostic indicators of cognitive complexity is the presence of specialised bone tools, however significant uncertainty remains over the manufacture and use of these artefacts within the Aterian techno-complex. In this paper we report on a bone artefact from Aterian Middle Stone Age (MSA) deposits in Dar es-Soltan 1 cave on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. It comes from a layer that can be securely dated to ~90 ka. The typological characteristics of this tool, which suggest its manufacture and use as a bone knife, are comparatively similar to other bone artefacts from dated Aterian levels at the nearby site of El Mnasra and significantly different from any other African MSA bone technology. The new find from Dar es-Soltan 1 cave combined with those from El Mnasra suggest the development of a bone technology unique to the Aterian.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Figures

Fig 1
Fig 1. Archaeological and stratigraphical context of the bone implement from Dar es-Soltan 1.
(A) Location of the Dar es-Soltan 1 and El Mnasra caves on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Spatial (B) and stratigraphic (D) context of the bone tool (C) within Dar es-Soltan 1 cave. Shaded squares excavated in 2012. (Relief map modified from Wikimedia Creative Commons).
Fig 2
Fig 2. Bone tool from Dar es-Soltan 1.
(A) Drawing of the tool with sequence of post-depositional breaks indicated [–3]; (B) Photograph of the cortical side, sharp edge, trabecular side, smooth edge, tip and base of the tool. (C) SEM images detailing (a) scrape marks and polish along the smooth edge on the cortical side of the tool and (b) deep scrape marks (re-sharpening) along the sharp edge on the cortical side; (c) flaking near the tip of the tool, and (d) detail of the flat break surface near the base of the tool; (e) wear pattern near the sharp edge on the trabecular side of the tool, and (f) deep scrape-marks near the smooth edge on the trabecular side; (g) flaking close to the tip, and (h) polishing of the smooth edge of the tool.
Fig 3
Fig 3. Reconstruction and micro-CT sections of the bone tool from Dar es-Soltan 1.
(A) Reconstruction of the portion of a large mammal rib used in the manufacture of the bone implement from Dar es-Soltan 1. (B) Micro-CT scan sections close to the base (B1), the middle (B2) and the tip (B3) of the tool (white outlines show the reconstructed cross-section of the rib). (C) Sequence of 19 micro-CT scan sections superimposed on an outline of the bone tool with sediment digitally removed (C2).
Fig 4
Fig 4. Cortical side of the bone tool from Dar es-Soltan 1.
Photo and details of bone surface modifications. (SEM images, a to o).
Fig 5
Fig 5. Trabecular side of the bone tool from Dar es-Soltan 1.
Photo and details of bone surface modifications. (SEM images, a to l).
Fig 6
Fig 6. Sharp edge of the bone tool from Dar es-Soltan 1.
Photo and details of bone surface modifications. (SEM images, a to j)
Fig 7
Fig 7. Smooth edge of the bone tool from Dar es-Soltan 1.
Photo and details of bone surface modifications. (SEM images, a to j)
Fig 8
Fig 8. Comparison of the bone tools from Dar es-Soltan 1 and El Mnasra with other types of bone implements.
(A) Temporal and geographical distribution of the African Middle Stone Age (MSA) sites discussed in the text. (B) Measures of thickness and width of an implement at 5mm from the tip of bone tools for African MSA sites. (C) Measurements of thickness and width at 5mm from the tip of compared implements. Details of measurements and sources are presented in SI4. (Images of Katanda and Blombos bone tools have been modified from photos, credit to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/behavior/making-clothing/bone-awls).
Fig 9
Fig 9. Middle Stone Age bone knives from Dar es-Soltan 1 and El Mnasra.
(A) Dar es-Soltan 1 bone knife; El Mnasra (B) refit of E9-233 with E9-229 and (C) D11-T194. Cortical and trabecular surfaces. Scale = 50 mm. (Relief map modified from Wikimedia Creative Commons).

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Grant support

Excavations at Dar es-Soltan were supported by Institut National des Sciences de l’Archéologie et du Patrimloine, Rabat, Morocco, University of Oxford (Fell Fund) and Calleva Foundation. The study of the bone tool was supported by the Calleva Foundation. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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