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Stratigraphy, palaeoenvironments and model for the deposition of the Abdur Reef Limestone: context for an important archaeological site from the last interglacial on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea

TitreStratigraphy, palaeoenvironments and model for the deposition of the Abdur Reef Limestone: context for an important archaeological site from the last interglacial on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea
Type de publicationJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuteursJ Bruggemann, H, Buffler, RT, Guillaume, M, Walter, RC, von Cosel, R, Ghebretensae, BN, Berhe, SM
JournalPalaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology
Volume203
Pagination179–206
ISSN0031-0182
Résumé

Stone tools discovered within uplifted marine terraces along the Red Sea coast of Eritrea at the Abdur Archaeological Site, dated to 125 +/- 7 ka (the last interglacial, marine isotope stage 5e), show that early humans occupied coastal areas by this time [Walter et al. (2000) Nature 405, 65-69]. In the present paper the stratigraphy, facies types and faunal composition from 25 measured sections of the tool-bearing Abdur Reef Limestone (ARL) are documented in detail and interpreted to provide a palaeoenvironmental context for the stone artefacts and a model for the deposition of the ARL. The ARL represents a complex marine terrace sequence. Erosional surfaces indicative of interrupted sedimentation are locally observed at two levels within the ARL. They subdivide the complex into three subunits, named 5e(1), 5e(2), and 5e(3), representing different stages of the marine isotope stage 5e sea level highstand, comprising six depositional phases (I-VI) of the ARL. Subunit 5e, begins with the initial transgression of the 5e sea level highstand leading to the deposition of widespread lag gravels on which rich oyster beds developed in shallow water (phase I). It further records rapid deepening accompanied by the deposition of low-energy carbonates with scarce corals (phase II), and later shoaling characterised by local development of a fringing reef tract in a sedimented environment (phase III). Subunit 5e(1) is capped locally by a burrowed hardground that is laterally equivalent to depositional discontinuities, interpreted as caused by a globally recognised mid-5e sea level low stand (phase IV). Extensive reef build-up in response to sea level rise and improved conditions for coral growth characterises subunit 5e(2) (phase V). A possible second sea level drop during the 5e highstand is inferred from the oyster-encrusted upper surface of subunit 5e(2). Subunit 5e(3) encompasses restricted coral patches that developed on the upper surface of the underlying subunit during the last stage of the 5e marine high stand (phase VI). Two different toolkits are found in the ARL. One consists of bifacial hand axes and cores of the Acheulian industry, typically associated with the oyster beds encrusted on the transgressive lag deposits. The other consists of Middle Stone Age (MSA)-type obsidian flakes and blades, mainly found in the nearshore and beach environments alongside debris from marine invertebrates and large land mammals. The distribution of these tools suggests that foraging activities of early humans varied with environmental setting. The Abdur Archaeological Site represents a late example of the Acheulian/MSA transition, seen as a benchmark for early modem human behaviour, and is, to date, the earliest well-dated example of early human adaptation to marine food resources. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

DOI10.1016/s0031-0182(03)00659-x