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Dating the End of the Neolithic in an Eastern Sahara Oasis: Modeling Absolute Chronology

Michel Wuttmann, François Briois, Béatrix Midant-Reynes, Tiphaine Dachy


The Neolithic site KS043, excavated by the Institut français d’archéologie orientale (IFAO), is situated in the southern basin of the Kharga Oasis (Egypt). It is one of the very few stratified prehistoric sites of the eastern Sahara. The archaeological remains were found near artesian springs that provided water for pastoralists during the dry Middle Holocene. In situ settlement features provided well-preserved material (charcoal, ashy sediment, ostrich eggshell) sufficient to perform radiocarbon dating in the IFAO laboratory in Cairo by the conventional liquid scintillation method. In 2 cases, ostrich eggshell and charcoal within the same in situ context gave significantly different results of, respectively, ~600 and ~1200 yr younger dates for the ostrich eggshells. The strong discrepancy is here highlighted for the first time and we suggest that it may be linked with postdepositional phenomena in the vicinity of the artesian springs. A thorough review of 14C dates available for the Holocene in eastern Sahara shows that ostrich eggshells have been widely used. They seem slightly more prone to be discarded than other material but were never the object of a particular study in this context. Bayesian modeling shows that the Neolithic occupation at site KS043 spans a range from 5000 to 3950 cal BC (and concentrated around 4600–4350 cal BC). Characteristic flint tools and pottery relate this occupation to the end of the Neolithic and show links with the Tasian culture, confirming the timing of the presence of this cultural complex in the desert before its appearance in the Nile Valley.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.v54i3–4.16399

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