Early Holocene Contacts between Africa and Europe and their Palaeoenvironmental Context

Principal Investigators: H. Brückner, G.-C. Weniger

The project focuses on human contacts between Africa and Europe in the Western Mediterranean. Even though both continents are only separated by a few kilometres, current research suggests phases of continuity as well as discontinuity regarding intercontinental contacts. A period of intensive communication and mobility is the early Holocene. The project deals with the Epipalaeolithic-Neolithic-Transition, intercontinental networks and the impact of African developments on the process of Neolithisation in Southwest Europe. Special attention is dedicated to the role of environmental and climate change within this process.

The early Holocene of the Western Mediterranean is a period of dramatic cultural change. New patterns of subsistence emerge at the transition from the Epipalaeolithic to the Neolithic. The project focuses on the development of food-producing groups on both sides of the Mediterranean, their intercontinental connections, adaptation to different habitats as well as the effect of climate and environmental change on prehistoric land use.

In the Western Mediterranean, Epipalaeolithic groups played an important role in the transitional process. They are an element of continuity in our research area. Different models explain how these indigenous groups adopted technological innovations from Neolithic pioneers. Latter groups represent an element of discontinuity and are probably the source for most of the recorded cultural innovations. The appearance of different ceramic styles and subsistence strategies is the result of ethnic diversity and adaptations to different environments. The distribution of cardium (Franco-Iberian style) and noncardium impressed pottery excludes each other in the South of the Iberian Peninsula as well as in Northwest-Africa. A comparison of pottery distribution to bioclimatic zones displays a patterning of Cardial ceramics connected to subhumid and non-Cardial ceramics connected to semiarid conditions. Recent investigations in semiarid Morocco indicate that contacts within these bioclimatic zones were closer, even via the Mediterranean Sea, than to neighbouring areas of a different environmental setting. The patterning of these transcontinental networks seems crucial to us for the understanding of the neolithisation process in the Western Mediterranean as a whole. These new results cast a new light, and thus attention, on the African influences upon Southwest Europe.

At the same time, radiocarbon data of archaeological sites from Morocco show significant correlation with climate events like Bölling, Alleröd and Younger Dryas and the onset of the Holocene. The same is true to shifts in humidity, indicated by the variation of Saharan dust in Atlantic marine records. Oscillation of radiocarbon data may indicate fluctuations of human occupation. The project intends to analyse the pattern behind this process using archaeological data in combination with environmental data from archaeological sites, terrestrial archives (fluvial, limnic) and marine records. Furthermore, investigations of terrestrial archives will test the distribution of semiarid and subhumid zones at the time of Epipalaeolithic-Neolithic-transition.


The CRC 806 thanks the following co-operation partners for their efforts:

  • Abdessalam Mikdad, Abdessalam Amarir, Habiba Atki, Mustapha Nami
    Ministère de la Culture du Maroc (INSAP)
  • Josef Eiwanger
    Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (KAAK
  • Juan Francisco Gibaja Bao
    CSIC Barcelona, Spain, use wear analysis (Ifri Oudadane, Hassi Ouenzga, Mtlili, Ifri n'Etsedda)
  • Oriol Vicente Campos
    Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain, study of Early Neolithic pottery (Ifri n'Etsedda)
  • Lydia Zapata, Monica Ruiz
    University of Bilbao, Spain, Anthracology (Ifri Oudadane)
  • Leonor Pena-Chocarro, Guillem Perez
    CSIC, Madrid, Spain, Archaeobotany, seeds (Ifri Oudadane, Ifri n'Etsedda, Moulouya)
  • Juan Antonio Lopez Saez
    CSIC, Madrid, Spain, Pollen (Ifri Oudadane, Ifri n'Etsedda)
  • Amelia Rodriguez Rodriguez
    use wear analysis (Ifri Oudadane, Hassi Ouenzga, Mtlili, Ifri n'Etsedda)
  • Jacob Morales-Mateo
    Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, Archaeobotany, seeds (Ifri Oudadane, Ifri n'Etsedda, Moulouya)
  • Rainer Hutterer
    Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig Bonn, Malacology, Archaeozoology (Ifri Oudadane, Ifri n'Etsedda)
  • Katleen Deckers
    University Tübingen, Germany, Anthracology (Moulouya)



1st Phase - Research Programme
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1st Phase - Posters presented at international Congresses & Workshops
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2nd Phase - Posters presented at international Congresses & Workshops
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