Last excavation campaign at the Epipalaeolithic–Neolithic site of Ifri n’Etsedda, Morocco
Between February and April 2014, the archaeological team of the C2 project carried out the third and last excavation campaign at the archaeological site of Ifri n'Etsedda (Ouled Daoud, Morocco).
The spring campaign was mainly oriented at the achievement of the burial, which was partially excavated in the Epipalaeolithic layers already during the latter stages of the 2013 field season. The excavation was then organized in such a way to extensively reach and expose the level with the burial and at the same time to connect the 2012 and 2013 excavated sectors and conclude the exploration of the archaeological deposit of the rock shelter.
After three weeks of this year's excavation, slowly going down from the Neolithic to those Epipalaeolithic levels, the body was finally reached and exposed. The skeleton is perfectly preserved without traces of bioturbation or post-depositional disturbance. The individual appeared to be "pressed" with the upper limbs tight against the chest sides and with crossed feet suggesting that the body was probably wrapped in some kind of organic container. At the level of the thorax a perforated shell was found, which represents a possible evidence of grave goods. In addition, a short distance from the body, a large stone completely strewn with ochre was identified, however, it is still not clear whether this find is in association with the burial or not.
One entire week was exclusively dedicated to the 3D documentation of the grave and the stratigraphic surroundings. Particular attention has been paid to the extraction of the skeleton (use of masks, latex gloves and sterilized instruments) in order to obtain uncontaminated aDNA material for later analyses in the aDNA lab of the Johann-Gutenberg-University Mainz.
Thanks to the advanced standards of documentation, we are now dealing with high resolution data that will allow to better understand the context of prehistoric occupation of the site and in particular of the burial, which represents a scientifically exceptional discovery since there is no other known evidence of Neolithic or Epipalaeolithic burials in the whole region.
By sampling and flotation of the entire excavated sediment, a new amount of environmental features such as micro- and macrobotanical remains (pollen, seeds, charcoal) and molluscs is available and will be combined with previous results and information obtained from the archaeological material.
In the last days of excavation, soil samples for micromorphological analyses were taken from the main sections, too. These new samples along with the ones extracted in 2012 will definitively supply the possibility to realize an accurate geoarchaeological study of the entire deposit. This will clarify the complexity of formation processes and how sedimentary, pedological and anthropological factors were involved.
|Ifri n'Etsedda during excavation of the burial in March 2014.
Photo: Jörg Linstädter
Burial after excavation. Note the perforated marine shell on the chest.
Photo: Jörg Linstädter
3D reconstruction using Structure-for-Motion (SfM) technique.
Produced by: Clemens Schmid