MP Gallery - Fontmaure, France; La Roche-Cotard, France; El Guettar, Tunisia; e) elguettar

Site: El Guettar, Gafsa, Tunisia. Aterian Middle Paleolithic [Libyan Aterian dated variously 140-130,000 BP or OSL 90-69,000 BP; Aterian of Dakleh, Western Egypt dated > 90,000 BP; Aterian generally dated c, 100,000 to 35,000 BP]. Secure, Level T.

Documentation: Gruet, M. 1954. Le gisement mousterien d'El Guettar. Karthago 5:1-79. In Level T, a heap of limestone blocks, some 60 limestone spheroids, bones and flaked Aterien tools, with several flint spheroids at the top of the heap, marked by red ochre (p. 31, 67-77; plate D). Approximately 75 cm high and 1 m. 30 in diameter. Large limestone blocks form a circular base, in which are splinters of bone and chips of flint. The flint spheroids are natural, the limestone are fashioned by percussion. Of the flint spheroids at the top of the heap, one, perfectly smooth with white cortex, is broken at one pole to expose the black flint inside and the other pole is stained with red ochre. A second neighboring flint spheroid is covered with natural cupules made by sudden temperature changes; they form a web of polygonal mesh sinuous ridges. A third flint has enigmatic flower-like features. On the north side of the pile a flint nodule with white cortex intact has the form of a sea urchin, while on the south side, a flint nodule entirely black has a bizarre shape, oblong with a medial bulge. The entire edifice appears to hve been constructed at one time. Bones deposited in the limestone circle include a bovid tibia and astragalae, fragments of long bones and other bone pieces; 250 animal teeth, a rhino mandible; possible humerus of Bos primigenius. The lower level contained two limestone geometric plaquettes, one in the form of an isoceles triangle, 7.5 x 9 cm, the other a losange, 18 cm long. (Limestone is not found in the immediate environs of the site.) A fifth of the mass of the pile contains flint pieces, 1970 retouched pieces, 1959 flakes, and 65 nuclei. A fine Aterian point was placed at the center of the pile. There are a large number of very beautifully made points reserved for the top of the pile. On the base, there is a scatter of non-retouched flakes and nuclei, whole and fragments, but not differing from the that of the surrounding area. The entire structure was placed in a spring, a water source. The complex must be explained as religious or magical, comparable to religious cairns of later peoples, such as Greek herms; the burial cairns of modern Arabs; stone piles said to be the homes of various deities. The spheroids may have represented perfection, mobility, good fortune, as among present day Berbers, spherical stones materialize prayers. The cairn and its spheroids and tools were offerings to the source, the source of life (67-77).

Comment (James Harrod): This stunning ritual complex can be compared to the Har Karkom (Israel) Aterien hutfloor with its zoomorphic and anthropomomrphic figurines and geometric stones and to the small white limestone circles containing deposits of worked flints tools and sculptures at various sites on Har Karkom, such as HK19 and other HK sites with white stone circle.

Photo © M. Gruet.

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