CORDIS - EU research results

Man and Environments in Morocco during Quaternary

Final Report Summary - MEMOQUAT (Man and Environments in Morocco during Quaternary)

The Rabat-Témara region is a key area for the Moroccan Prehistory (figure 1). It has been known for over 70 years and has delivered numerous archaeological artifacts, sometimes in association with human remains. Despite the archaeological richness of the region and the large number of works conducted by several generations of researchers, many questions remained unanswered. The aim was 1) to clarify the dating of the Palaeolithic phase occupations, 2) to better understand the geological phenomena of caves formation and filling, and 3) to establish the regional paleoenvironmental framework.
Lithic industries were described, but behaviors (knapping stones, hunting strategies and symbolic objects) of the first occupants of Rabat-Témara remained largely unknown. Given the great antiquity of human occupation of the Rabat-Témara region, more than 120 000 years to the first Aterian Homo sapiens, these issues have taken on an international dimension with the questions, across the African continent, the origin and dispersal of anatomically modern humans. It is from this observation that we have developed the scientific problem and the main objectives of field operations, in relation with the other actions of MEMOQUAT Program. The excavations were necessary to renew and enrich the archaeological record, in a perspective of interdisciplinary studies at high resolution. The four years have allowed us to strengthen scientific cooperation between France, Italy and Morocco in order to better coordinate all the analysis studies from the field to the laboratory. The discoveries and the results were consistent. They help to draw rich scientific results and scientific perspectives, research training and skills transfer.

The main contributions of the Rabat-Témara region concern both men behaviors and their environment. The only known human remains of Homo sapiens in North Africa reportable to isotopic stage 5 are from the Rabat-Témara region. The newly discovered remains confirm this diagnosis since they are identical to those previously discovered. Data on prehistory of this region have been updated and methodological confrontations have been made, both in the area of the excavation as analyzes. The excavations were conducted simultaneously in two sites with the same protocol (fine excavations computer-assisted systematic sieving). The analyzes were performed with the same methods: dating (OSL, ESR, 14C). Samples for ESR dating (animal teeth, sediment) have been processed and analyzed Lasmar Meknes and MNHN in Paris.
The combined ESR-U/Th method applied to fossil herbivorous teeth allows a chronostratigraphical view thanks to guide marks precising the palaeoenvironmental frame in which men lived during Palaeolithic period in Morocco. All the dated layers are attributed to Aterian culture. The analyses have been performed on bovid fossil teeth unearthed from layers 8, 5 and 4a at El Haroura 2, and from layers 7, 6a and 6 at El Mnasra Caves. The results range between 92 and 44 ka for El Haroura2, and between 89 and 62ka for El Mnasra. These results confirm that Anatomically Modern Humans were present in this area at the MIS5.

The stratigraphic sequences of El Mnasra and El Harhoura 2 caves have been reassessed and clarified. These interpretations and lithostratigraphic archéostratigraphiques rely on methodical excavations and the systematic study of the archaeological material. The exhaustive archaeological samples are thus comparable. The archaeological levels being well preserved, a taphonomic study has been conducted, particularly regarding microfauna. The contribution of fauns and microfaunas has been completely renewed, as well as the geochronological framework, highlighting more seniority than was admitted. The correlation of main phases with Aterian occupations isotopic stages 5-3 and caves between them has been established. Clarifications were made to our knowledge of the Neolithic: burials in caves and many paleopathological studies, accompanied by comparisons with contemporary populations (Rouazzi Skhirat necropolis).
The study of the lithic industries and the raw materials resources revealed flint on primary deposits, while it was generally thought that this material solely from pebbles collected in the wadis. The presence of tanged tools in the Middle Palaeolithic industries is not constant at all sites: they exist in El Mnasra (figure 4), but they are absent in El Harhoura 2 aterian sequence. The contemporaneity of sites with and without tanged tools shows that these artifacts are not a sufficient criterion to define Aterian versus Mousterian culture.

Contact :
For Paris : Christophe Falguères ( and Chafika Falguères (
For Ferrara : Marta Arzarello (