Processes behind the shift from hunting-gathering to food production lifestyle are multifaceted and not yet completely understood. The Mediterranean coast of NW Africa provides an eclectic transitional pattern, namely, a very hesitant transition to food production. The distribution and abundance of early Neolithic domesticated species is disparate and region specific. Climate and environmental change have been often considered as an important influencing factor for this transition. This hypothesis was tested using archeological shells of the rocky intertidal gastropod Phorcus turbinatus recovered from the Ifri Oudadane site in NE Morocco. The oxygen isotope composition (δ18O) of the shell was used to examine whether the hesitant transition to food production was linked to a local climate shift in the Mediterranean Maghreb. Intrashell δ18O values suggest a marked temperature increase from >7.6 to ~7.0 cal. ka BP, the time when Neolithic innovations first appear on site. An additional increase in temperature from ~7.0 to <6.8 cal. ka BP matches with the beginning of the main occupation phase and the doubtless breakthrough of cultivation at Ifri Oudadane. This apparent warming trend, although considered preliminary, seems to match well with warming tendency observed in several published regional climate proxies. Therefore, a temperature shift may have played a role in the timing and implementation of food production in the area. Last growth episode δ18O values suggest that shellfish were harvested throughout most of the year, with noticeable intensification during the cooler half of the year. This preliminary pattern was fairly consistent throughout the Epipaleolithic and early Neolithic phases, pointing to a probable near year-round site occupation rather than a single season settlement. Future research on Ifri Oudadane and other NW African archeological records are much needed to assess whether these patterns persist in Morocco and other Epipaleolithic and early Neolithic settlements in the western Mediterranean Maghreb.
The Holocene: A Major Interdisciplinary Journal Focusing on Recent Environmental Change – SAGE
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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