(Chapter II, section 8)

Upper Palaeolithic hunters of North Africa

During the Late Pleistocene, at the time of the Würm glaciations in Europe, northern Africa, including the present Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, enjoyed a cool climate and an abundant plant life; making an admirable home for human beings. Fortunately, many Late Pleistocene skeletons from these countries have been studied, and we are able to supplement our information from Europe very greatly by comparison.

During the Upper Palaeolithic, there were three cultures in North Africa whic h existed contemporaneously as geographical units; the Capsian, covering a restricted range in Tunisia and eastern Algeria; the Oranian, a related culture extending over the provinces of Alger and Constantine, and into Morocco; and the Aterian, along the Moroccan seaboard.

The Capsian and Oranian were cultures basically related to the Aurignacian of Europe, but which contained throughout their history a microlithic blade element which was destined to move northward, after the end of the glacial period, and to invade Europe as the Tardenoisian. The Capsian had probably moved westward along the southern Mediterranean shore from the East; the Oranian was nothing but a western extension of the Capsian; while the Aterian was a protracted survivor of the Mousterian which developed its own peculiarities as time went on, and was gradually crowded to the Atlantic seaboard by the Oranian.

It is at present believed that North Africa, during the Late Pleistocene, was a marginal area of refuge, and not a highway of cultures. Gibraltar served less as a bridge than as a barrier. Nothing can better attest the passive cultural rôle of North Africa during this period than the fact that the Aterian, a Mid-Pleistocene culture, was allowed to elaborate its own special technique long after the Mousterian, from which it sprang, had passed out of existence elsewhere.

That the earlier phases of the Capsian and Oranian, coming directly after the Mousterian, were comparable in time to the Upper Palaeolithic cultures of Europe, such experts as Menghin, Obermaier, and Leakey are unanimous,42 while Miss Garrod, on the basis of Vaufrey’s work, would make them later.43

We can only, at this point, agree with Menghin that while the exact time correlation of North African and western European Late Pleistocene industries is still floating, they may be considered roughly parallel. At present, the general agreement is that the essential elements of both European and North African Upper Palaeolithic cultures came from the east, and had, at least in part, a common origin.

So far, all of the human remains of the Late Pleistocene from North Africa come from the Province of Constantine, where most of the archaeological work has been done. The total of these skeletons probably reaches one hundred, but, unfortunately, less than half of them have been fully preserved or competently studied.44 They come for the most part from two great sites, Afalou bou Rummel, and Mechta el ‘Arbi. The former is Oranian, the latter Capsian.

Afalou bou Rummel is an Early Oranian site. Within this early horizon, Arambourg distinguishes two levels, a lower and an upper. The lower may be correlated with the Early Aurignacian of Europe, by one system, or with Middle and Late Aurignacian, according to another.

The lower level is represented by the skeleton of a single adult male, to whom we shall refer by his catalogue number, #28. Number 28 was a short man, about 161.5 cm. tail, equivalent in stature to Galley Hill, Combe Capelle, and the male negroid from Grimaldi. His skull differs greatly from the others taken from the upper level of the same site. It is ovoid in shape, hyperdolichocephalic, and low vaulted; it possesses a sloping forehead, a large U-shaped palate, and high orbits. It is only moderately massive, and is about equal in this respect to Combe Capelle. This skull is that of a generalized white type, and can be placed without much difficulty into the general class of Galley Hill and Combe Capelle. Like the latter, its nasal aperture is wide, its index chamaerrhine.

Forty-nine other crania have been taken from the upper lenses of the Early Oranian culture level at Afalou bou Rummel. These correspond closely in physical type to Middle and Late Aurignacian man in western Europe, but the two groups are not identical. Like Crô-Magnon, all of the Afalou skeletons studied were tall, with an estimated male mean falling between 171 and 175 cm., according to different methods. Their limb proportions with long distal segments, are like those of many of the group; while their hands and feet, similarly, are both longer and broader than those of most Europeans. The combined height of the vertebrae show that their bodies, as well as their legs, were long, and the total bulk of a typical male, in good condition, must have been great.

A high ratio between the length of the collarbone and that of the upper arm (clavico umeral index) reveals that they had broader shoulders than those of most modern white men, a feature which has been also noticed on the Chancelade and Obercassel skeletons, and perhaps is equally true of the European group as a whole. The pelves are high and have narrow openings; the feet are highly arched, with well-developed heels; and the size and muscular markings of the long bones differentiate the males from the females clearly. All of the bodily traits of these men are shared by Crô-Magnon, and all are, in a general sense, European.

The Afalou crania have been exhaustively described and thoroughly illustrated. In general, they are very large, low-orbitted skulls, thick-boned, and marked in high relief for muscular attachment. The browridges form a heavy jut, even greater in most instances than those of the Crô-Magnons. Behind a salient glabella the forehead slopes in all instances. Vertical foreheads, frequent among modern whites, especially females, and present in some Crô-Magnon individuals, do not occur here. The union of the parietal and occipital bones is always marked by a lambdoidal depression, or flattening,45 while below this depression the occiput is usually bun- shaped and projecting. The mastoids are strongly developed, and the thickness of the vault is greater than that of modern man, but no greater than with Crô-Magnon.

Metrically, the male skulls (see Appendix I, col. 3) are practically identical with those of the total European series, except that they are slightly shorter and higher in vault dimensions, while the upper face is a little shorter. In these divergences from the total European group, they resemble the western branch, or Crô-Magnons. The cranial indices of 23 males range from 70 to 80, with a mean of 74.8; while the female figures are: range 70 to 84; and mean 75.7. Both in range and in means of head form, the Afalou series equals that of Crô-Magnon.

The nose of the Afalou type is perfectly European in bony conformation. The paired nasal bones unite at a sharp angle, without trace of flattening, while the bridges are high and mostly convex. The nasal spine is strong and projects far forward. The nasal index, which lies just over the border of chamaerrhiny,46 furnishes a real metrical difference between Afalou and Crô-Magnon. The elevation of the index is due to a shorter height as well as to a greater width. Not one of the Afalou skulls is actually leptorrhine. This feature, combined with the sloping forehead and heavy browridges, serves to differentiate the types in the two continents. The Afalou mandible, furthermore, is extremely broad, deep, and heavy. In the possession of a pronounced chin greater than those commonly found among the living, it is clearly opposed to any known Neanderthal form. However, it resembles the Neanderthaloids in one feature; the bigonial breadth is frequently greater than the mandibular length, a condition rare in Homo sapiens, and not even found in Skhul.

In the Crô-Magnon series, the combination of a short, broad upper face with a long cranial vault has often been called “disharmonic,” and it has been asserted that this condition is the result of mixture between a longer, narrower-faced dolichocephal and a shorter, wider-faced brachvcephal.47 In the European series, although both long and round skull forms occur, there are not enough crania which still possess facial bones to make a statistical analysis of this point valid. But in the Afalou series, where the same set of conditions is duplicated, such an analysis is possible.48 Out of nine dolichocranial skulls, four have upper facial indices in the broad category, while fourteen out of eighteen of the rounder-headed examples are broad faced. The tendency toward a broad upper face form, then, is borne predominantly by the meso- and brachycranial element in the group If this is true for the Afalou series, it is probably equally valid in the Crô- Magnon group.

Two of the Afalou skulls, however, present the “disharmonic” combination of a hypereuryene face with a long skull form. In explaining this anomaly we must remember that an extreme width of the face is sex- linked in both the Crô-Magnon and Afalou series; it is a manifestation of the extreme ruggedness and luxuriance of muscularity which the males of both series manifest, and is lacking, as a rule, among the females.

One other peculiarity which is common to both the European and the North African Upper Palaeolithic peoples is a very low orbital index. This again lends itself in the second series to statistical analysis. Only three out of eleven dolichocranial skulls are chamaeconch, while fourteen out of eighteen of those with higher cranial indices fall into this low-orbitted category.49

Hence we may deduce that the two parallel series, Crô-Magnon and Afalou, consist in each case of a Galley Hill-Neanderthal mixture as a base, with which is associated a variant tendency to round-headedness. To this is linked an extremely short, broad upper facial form, with a heavy lower jaw, and wide, low orbits. At the same time, certain differences, such as the nose form, definitely prevent the assumption that the two are identical, and make it extremely unlikely that the two met, after their initial separation. during the entire span of the Late Pleistocene.

Other facts strengthen this conclusion.50 The Afalou people knocked out one to four incisor teeth from the jaws of each person of either sex, between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, apparently as a puberty rite. Tooth knocking is unknown in Europe before the Mesolithic,51 although finger-chopping, during the Upper Palacolithic, is indicated by the outlines of mutilated hands on the walls of the caves. Therefore, if the Crô-Magnon people observed bloody puberty ceremonies, as is quite possible, they must have removed some less tell-tale part of the anatomy than the teeth. While this bit of cultural evidence renders the theory of physical contact between the two groups unlikely, it does not necessarily affect the problem of relative age. We still do not know whether the Afalou men, whose sequence of types parallels that in western Europe, were contemporaneous with their kinsmen to the north, or later than them to arrive.

From a study of these presumably Pleistocene Algerians, we are able to confirm the conclusions reached in the preceding section, and to amplify them. A fully sapiens individual, comparable to Combe Capelle in every important respect, preceded, in time, a group of overgrown, large-headed and wide-faced Neanderthal-sapiens hybrids. This latter type, like Crô-Magnon and unlike the people in central and eastern Europe, bore a tendency to brachycephaly. That Crô-Magnon and Afalou men were the parallel termini of similar movements, and not way stations on a single line of migration, is probable. In view of the earlier evidence of a similar mixture in Palestine, and of the general center of Aurignacian activity in that neighborhood, it may be considered likely that the second pair of parallel movements proceeded westward from that general quarter. The earlier waves which brought Combe Capelle and Afalou #28 must have come from a different center. Whether the Crô-Magnon and Afalou people derived their brachycephalic tendencies from parallel mixtures at the terminal points of invasion or brought them with them in the first place, cannot be determined without further evidence.


42 Menghin, O., Weltgeschichte der Steinzeit, pp. 34—35.
Obermaier, H., AAnz, vol. 7, 1931, PP. 259—265.
Leakey, L. S. B., Stone Age Africa, pp. 105—111.

43 Garrod, Miss D. A. E., RBAA, Pres. Ad., Sect. H.
Vaufrey, R., Anth, vol. 43, 1933, pp. 457—483.

But two satisfactory accounts have been published:
Part II of Les Grottes Palaeolithiques de Beni Séghoual, by Boule, Vallois, and Verneau.
Cole, Fay-Cooper, LMB #1, 1928, Section on skeletal material.

45 This feature is extremely common among living North African tribesmen, and among crania from the Canary Islands. See Coon, C. S., Tribes of the Rif, p. 312.

Hooton, E. A., The Ancient Inhabitants of the Canary Islands, p. 134.

46 Mean for 21 males—53.1; Nose Ht.=52.7 mm.; Nose Br.=28.4 mm.

47 Hooton, E. A., Canary Islands, pp. 204—207.

48 The coefficient of mean square contingency between the cranial index and the up per facial index, calculated with nine boxes, equals .53.

49 C = .47. In this contingency table, of 6 boxes, the progression is constant, and of undoubted significance.

50 It was at one time thought that the presence of caries in a small percentage in the Afalou teeth made them later in age than the Europeans. However, the two Solutrean or Magdalenian skulls from Le Roc, Charente, were also carious.
Boule, M., and Vallois, H., BIPH, # 18, 1937.

51 See Chapter III, p. 68, footnote 27 (Ofnet).