III.4. Africa

Levantine herders probably introduced domestic livestock in northern Arabia, with Natufian and Pre-Pottery Neolithic spreading across Arabia during the African Humid Period ca. 8000–4000 BC (with an unknown timing). Depictions of domestic goats in rock art points to caprine pastoralism typical of the Jordanian Badia, although cattle is found in early remains, too (Scerri et al. 2018).

The Upper Capsian culture followed the Typical Capsian phase after a change to bladelet production (ca. 6200 BC), normally produced by pressure technique that required preparation of sophisticated mitred cores. A consistent range of bladelet blanks are produced, which in turn allowed for the production of standardised tools. This technological change is synchronous with an environmental shift, probably under the influence from expanding Neolithic cultures (Rahmani and Lubell 2012).

Neolithisation along the Mediterranean fringe of the African continent is not well documented, but it seems to have happened late and simultaneously with the northern Mediterranean. In the Egyptian Delta, the introduction of an agropastoral economy from the neighbouring Middle East occurs ca. 6000 BC or earlier, and reaches later Libya over the course of the 6th millennium (Guilaine 2017). Along the coastline there is clearly a rapid extension, probably related to an expansion from the Levant in the east, too.

In the southern Mediterranean, bifacial pressure flaking follows farming westward during the first wave of distribution, unlike in the northern Mediterranean, where Impressed Ware is not accompanied by this technique (it appears in Iberia only in the mid–4th millennium). In north-west Africa, wheat and sheepspecies of oriental originare evidenced in the Maghreb at the turn of the 6th to 5th millennium BC, with the introduction of bifacial arrowheads, associated with the expansion of the Neolithic of Capsian tradition. Bifacial thinning using pressure flaking associated with agriculture is known thus only in the Levant, Anatolia, and Northern Africa until ca. 3500 BC (Darmark 2012).

As herding economies entered the Sahara, monumental sites commenced with pastoralist cemeteries along the Nile and in the south-central Sahara (ca. 6000–5500 BC), including personal adornments in some burials. Slightly later (ca.  5400–4500 BC), rock art, platforms, and/or standing stones, as well as ritually interred cattle appear.

While population levels peaked between 6000–5500 BC, northern Africa underwent over the following millennium a population decline driven by a millennium-long dry event starting ca. 6000 BC. After ca. 5000 BC, domestic cattle, sheep and goat spread throughout northern Africa, which was followed by a second population boom lasting until ca. 3500 BC.

iii.4. Northern Africans

Large genetic continuity in north-west Africa can be inferred from the Early Neolithic samples of Ifri n’Amr or Moussa (ca. 5200 BC), which shows hg. E1b1b1b1a-M81 (formed ca. 11900 BC, TMRCA ca. 800 BC). Although their position in PCA is intermediate between Iberomaurusians and modern North African populations, this has been interpreted as driven by isolation and genetic drift (Fregel et al. 2018).

While a population related to north-western Anatolian Neolithic farmers spread westward into Europe, farmers related to those of the Levant spread southward into north-east Africa (Lazaridis et al. 2016; Schuenemann et al. 2017).