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Stone Age Graveyard Reveals Lifestyles Of A 'Green Sahara'

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« on: December 17, 2008, 10:08:07 pm »

Bioarchaeologist Stojanowski analyzed dozens of individuals’ bones and teeth for clues to the two populations. “This individual, for example, had huge leg muscles,” he said of ridges on the thigh bone of a Kiffian male, “which suggests he was eating a lot of protein and had an active, strenuous lifestyle. The Kiffian appear to have been fairly healthy — it would be difficult to grow a body that tall and muscular without sufficient nutrition.” In contrast, the femur ridge of a Tenerian male was barely perceptible. “This man’s life was less rigorous, perhaps taking smaller fish and game with more advanced hunting technologies,” Stojanowski said.

Analysis of measurements on Kiffian skulls links them to skulls found across northern Africa, some as old as 16,000 years, Stojanowski said. The Tenerian, however, are not closely linked to these ancient populations.   

Ancient bones from many animals common today on the Serengeti were identified at the site by Hélène Jousse, a zooarchaeologist from the Museum of Natural History in Vienna, Austria. The evidence showed that elephants, giraffes, hartebeests, warthogs and pythons all made Gobero their home. Abundant bones of 6-foot-long Nile perch indicate the presence of a deep lake during Kiffian times; remains of small catfish and tilapia make it likely that the waters were shallower during Tenerian times. 

The team is continuing to analyze Gobero bones for more clues to the people’s health and diet. A large-scale return expedition is planned to the site to further explore the two populations that coped with extreme climate change.

Besides National Geographic, the research at Gobero is funded by the Island Fund of the New York Community Trust, the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

The National Geographic magazine article and special Web features on Gobero are at Extensive information about the discovery and science of Gobero is available at Project Exploration’s “People of the Green Sahara” Web site,


Journal reference:

Sereno et al. Lakeside Cemeteries in the Sahara: 5000 Years of Holocene Population and Environmental Change. PLoS ONE, 2008; 3 (Cool: e2995 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002995
Adapted from materials provided by National Geographic Society.
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 MLA National Geographic Society (2008, August 15). Stone Age Graveyard Reveals Lifestyles Of A 'Green Sahara'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2008, from­ /releases/2008/08/080815101317.htm
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