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The North African Middle Stone Age and its place in recent human evolution

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Scerri,  Eleanor M. L.
Archaeology, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Scerri, E. M. L. (2017). The North African Middle Stone Age and its place in recent human evolution. Evolutionary Anthropology, 26(3), 119-135. doi:10.1002/evan.21527.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0000-32EB-F
Abstract
The North African Middle Stone Age (NAMSA, ∼300-24 thousand years ago, or ka) features what may be the oldest fossils of our species as well as extremely early examples of technological regionalization and ‘symbolic’ material culture (d'Errico, Vanhaeren, Barton, Bouzouggar, Mienis, Richter, Hublin, McPherron, Louzouet, Klein, ; Scerri, ; Richter, Grün, Joannes-Boyau, Steele, Amani, Rué, Fernandes, Raynal, Geraads, Ben-Ncer Hublin, McPherron, ). The geographic situation of North Africa and an increased understanding of the wet-dry climatic pulses of the Sahara Desert also show that North Africa played a strategic role in continental-scale evolutionary processes by modulating human dispersal and demographic structure (Drake, Blench, Armitage, Bristow, White, ; Blome, Cohen, Tryon, Brooks, Russell, ). However, current understanding of the NAMSA remains patchy and subject to a bewildering array of industrial nomenclatures that mask underlying variability. These issues are compounded by a geographic research bias skewed toward non-desert regions. As a result, it has been difficult to test long-established narratives of behavioral and evolutionary change in North Africa and to resolve debates on their wider significance. In order to evaluate existing data and identify future research directions, this paper provides a critical overview of the component elements of the NAMSA and shows that the timing of many key behaviors has close parallels with others in sub-Saharan Africa and Southwest Asia.