Archaeological discovery: Algeria, another cradle of humanity?

Genre : Cultural projects
Principal country concerned : Column : History/society
Release/publication date : December 2023
Published on : 20/07/2023
Source :

Algeria, another cradle of humanity?

An incredible archaeological discovery was recently made in Algeria, which would push back the presence of hominids in North Africa by 600,000 years.

A recent archaeological discovery in the Sétif region of Algeria provides information on the ancient migrations of human beings, from one area to another in the world: from East Africa to North Africa, and to Europe. This is the first time that such ancient tools have been discovered in the Mediterranean basin. Until now they were only found in East Africa. This discovery pushes back the arrival of men in Algeria by 600,000 years. With Brigitte Senut, professor of paleontology at the National Museum of Natural History.

Brigitte Senut: The discoveries of very ancient tools in northern Africa raise questions about the migrations of humans from Africa to Europe. A few days ago we announced the discovery of very old carved tools, up to 2.4 million years old in the north of Africa, in Algeria, in the region of Aïn Hanesh, on the site of Aïn Boucherit in particular.

What does this discovery tell us?

Brigitte Senut: While hominoids were widespread on the African continent, we focused on East Africa. But that also means that these southern African hominoids certainly evolved: did they become extinct there, did they evolve towards other regions, such as Gabon, Angola, West Africa, where we knows very little? But in any case, this discovery of Aïn Boucherit reminds us of the fact that it is a migrant man who moves and who is not restricted, constrained to a specific region.

When did the first migrations take place?

Brigitte Senut: It was classically said that it was 1.5 million years ago, that it was Homo erectus or Homo ergaster who would populate the world. So that, even in terms of evolution, is completely crazy, because it's not ONE man who is going to go and populate the world. These are populations for tens of thousands of years or even millions of years that will migrate elsewhere. Then some will reach southern Europe and they will develop.

What type of tools have we discovered?

Brigitte Senut: These are classic tools from a culture that we discovered in Olduvai in Tanzania, so it is an ancient culture that we found in Kenya or Ethiopia, in Gona for example, but also in Uganda in Niabou around 1.5 or 1.8 million years ago. So among the tools they are largely cores of limestone stones which have been re-broken, some on one side, others a little more widely. There are fragments and therefore it is relatively diverse for a very ancient culture. This therefore also means that there was probably consumption of meat and marrow, and therefore this gives us something important about the paleobiology, the paleo-behavior of these ancient hominids outside of eastern Africa.

What were the migration routes of these hominids?

Brigitte Senut: Classically we envisaged the Arabian route via the Arabian peninsula, but two other routes are emerging: via the Strait of Gibraltar or via the Red Sea which were places where we could pass easily given the fall in sea levels. Men probably followed the animals for food. Let us not forget that the environment in the Aïn Hanech region and on the Aïn Boucherit site in particular was a humid savannah environment and therefore was much more humid than what we know today in the region. It was a region with more game: we have hippos, antelopes... So it was something important for man to be able to feed himself.

France Culture
Published on
Wednesday December 26, 2018


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