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Stone Age Graveyard Reveals Lifestyles Of A 'Green Sahara'

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Author Topic: Stone Age Graveyard Reveals Lifestyles Of A 'Green Sahara'  (Read 2830 times)
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« on: December 17, 2008, 10:06:21 pm »

Dating the sun-bleached bones of fossil humans in the Sahara has proved very difficult. Using a new technique, the team has obtained nearly 80 radiocarbon dates from Gobero bones and teeth, including comprehensive dates based directly on human skeletons.

Archaeologist Elena Garcea of the University of Cassino in Italy helped identify the poorly known cultures so well-preserved at the site. Garcea, an expert in ancient pottery who has spent nearly three decades digging at Stone Age sites in northern Africa, traveled with Sereno in 2005 to the site, where she stood amazed, gazing at far more human skeletons than she had seen in all her previous digs combined.

She quickly homed in on two distinct types of pottery, one that bore a pointillistic pattern linked with the Tenerian and another that had wavy lines and zigzags. “These are Kiffian,” a puzzled Garcea told Sereno. “What is so amazing is that the people who made these two types of pots lived in the same place more than a thousand years apart.”

Over the next three weeks Sereno, Garcea and their team of five American excavators made a detailed map of the site. They exhumed eight burials and collected scores of artifacts from both cultures. In a dry lake bed nearby, they found dozens of Kiffian fish hooks and harpoons carved from animal bone as well as skeletal remains of massive Nile perch, crocodile and hippo.

A year later, a second round of excavation turned up more riddles: An adult Tenerian male was buried with his skull resting on part of a clay vessel; another adult male was interred seated on the shell of a mud turtle.

One burial, however, brought 2006 activity at the site to a standstill: Lying on her side, the skeleton of a petite Tenerian woman emerged from the sand, facing the skeletons of two young children; their slender arms reached toward her and their hands were clasped in an everlasting embrace. Samples taken from under the skeletons contained pollen clusters — evidence the people had been laid out on a bed of flowers. The team employed a range of new techniques to preserve this remarkable burial exactly as it had been for more than 5,000 years.
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