Tafouralt: First and oldest genetic material of Homo sapiens in Africa.

Mechta – Aflou / Tafouralt – Morocco & North Africa sites. Epipalaeolithic North Africa Iberomaurusians.

Since the beginning of the research that led the world to discover the prehistoric man of Tafouralt in the 1950s, abundant human remains have been discovered: at least 195 individuals and more than 500,000 prehistoric tools… men have lived in this area for hundreds of millennia, and the mountains of BaniZnassen have not finished surprising by the abundance of their archaeological treasures.

During the last ten days of November 2023, I accompanied a team of the German channel ZDF to film in the pigeon cave in Tafouralt. Several authorizations were necessary to access it, the site is world famous, their caves are known and recognized as a privileged place for prehistoric studies. It was about filming a scientific documentary about the new great archaeological discoveries in Morocco, and the best choice to document and especially understand was to call upon a Moroccan specialist who spent several years of his life in excavations across the country.

The production team of the ZDF chose Mr Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, director of the National Institute of Archaeology and Heritage Sciences (INSAP), teacher-researcher and director of archaeological excavations in the pigeon cave. A trip next to a man of this calibre can only be pleasure and discovery, like the beautiful old days of the first archaeologists of the 19th century, the subjects never change, men are still thirsting for truth even if times change.

The cave of the Pigeons, (or cave of Taforalt) is a prehistoric site located near the village of Tafouralt, in the Beni-Snassen massif, a mountainous region of low altitude (1535m) located in the north-east of Morocco, and 9 hours driving were necessary to get there from the capital Rabat.

The discovery of small perforated sea shells in the Pigeons Cave in Taforalt highlighted an older than expected use of adornments in northern Africa. Dating back 82,500 years, these adornments are among the oldest in the world. These discoveries are all signs of a symbolic material culture much older in Africa than in Europe.These adornments belong to the same species of shells and have the same type of perforation as those from the Paleolithic sites of Oued Djebbana in Algeria and also Skhul in Israel, It confirms that the people of the Mediterranean shared the same symbolic traditions. Other Moroccan sites, still unpublished, would confirm the use of Nassarius gibbosulus at that time.

On the other hand, an international team of archaeologists and geneticists has discovered in this region also the oldest traces of DNA of a Homo sapiens in Africa, traces dating back 15,000 years. According to scientists, a genetic connection between North Africa and the Near East already existed at the end of the Upper Palaeolithic. North Africa and the Middle East would then have formed a continuous genetic region.

Several international television channels are beginning to take an interest in this small archaeological revolution in Morocco, because since 2017 with the discovery of the oldest homo sapien on the planet in Ighoud (315,000 years) this region of the world has opened new horizons to science and human history.

Dec 2023 – Berkane (north-east of Morocco)
By: Khalid Leo FAKHAR
(Filming inTafouralt – Drone shooting in Tafouralt – Fixer in Berkane & Nador)

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