Prehistoric skeletons found in cave near Oujda, eastern Morocco

Barbary sheepFrom the Morocco Times:

Prehistoric skeletons found in cave near Oujda, eastern Morocco

By Susan Searight-Martinet


A team of Moroccan archaeologists working in the well-known Grotte des Pigeons cave at Tafoghalt, near Oujda, have recently brought to light human remains dating to around 11,000/12,000 BC, MAP news agency announced Monday.

This cave was first excavated in 1950 and indicated an occupation starting about 21,000 years ago by a population physically different from Morocco’s earlier inhabitants.

Luckily for the archaeologists, these people buried their dead in the cave.

More than 200 individuals have been revealed during the long-standing excavations, including nearly 100 children.

New research, taken up in 2003, has pushed back the dates of the early occupation of the cave to more than 100,000 years.

But the fresh discovery adds an unusual dimension to the burials: one of the skeletons had been buried with the horns of a Barbary sheep.

This animal was very plentiful in the mountainous regions surrounding the cave and was certainly hunted by these early populations.

The fact that its horns were buried with a skeleton will allow a better understanding of the funeral rites practices by these early Moroccans.

Stone and bone tools were also found beside the buried bodies.

An earlier study had shown that these people cared for their handicapped: after a serious accident, resulting in the total loss of one arm and the almost total loss of another, one woman nevertheless managed to live to an advanced age.

This showed that these cave dwellers did not throw out a useless mouth but even looked after an impotent woman for many years.

The discovery is part of a research programme directed by the National Institute for Archaeological Sciences and Heritage (INSAP) in cooperation with Oxford University.

The new series of excavations started on Sept.5 and will continue until the end of the month.

The new research in this cave is part of a vast programme of prospection and recording of archaeological sites in the lower Moulouya valley.

For instance, a series of sites, which are much younger than the skeleton-holding cave, have been discovered containing stone tools, pottery and ostrich eggshells.

The ostrich eggshells have been dated to around 5,500 BC by the Laboratory of Technical and Scientific Analyses of the Royal Gendarmerie in Temara, using the radiocarbon method.

MAP news agency added that investigations will continue in Ghafas, another Oujda cave, with a view to producing a precise chronology of the prehistoric human groups living in eastern Morocco several thousands of years ago.

Mouflon sheep: here.

Mouflons of the Kerguelen archipelago: here.

Prehistoric domestication of goats in Middle East: here.

Prehistory of domestic pigs: here


5 thoughts on “Prehistoric skeletons found in cave near Oujda, eastern Morocco

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