Microliths in the Middle and Later Stone Age of eastern Africa: New data from Porc-Epic and Goda Buticha cave sites, Ethiopia


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September 2014


Microliths and microlithic industries are central to definitions of the Later Stone Age technologies. It is generally accepted that microliths are associated with a change to more complex hunting technologies and strategies. However, because there is evidence of microlith production in Middle Stone Age contexts, there are debates regarding the significance of the presence of microliths within an assemblage. This paper aims to analyse the microlithic component of Middle and Later Stone Age assemblages in the eastern Ethiopia region, by means of lithic assemblages from two major cave sites, Porc-Epic and Goda Buticha. This paper presents a short review of the different meanings of the term “microlith” and of the diversity of microlith-bearing assemblages in the Middle and Later Stone Age in sub-Saharan Africa. An analysis of the microliths is presented using a methodology which helps to distinguish intentionally produced versus accidentally produced microliths, from Porc-Epic and Goda Buticha assemblages. The results of this study indicate that no intentional microliths are present in Porc-Epic assemblages, in contrast with those recovered in the Goda Buticha assemblages. Interestingly, very few microliths are present in the Pleistocene Middle Stone Age levels; they are more numerous (but not overwhelmingly) in the Holocene Later Stone Age levels of these sites. These results contribute to the discussion of the role of microliths in the Middle and in the Later Stone Age in this particular region of eastern Ethiopia.


Microliths, Eastern Africa, Cave, Goda Buticha

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Quaternary International, Vol. 343 (2014-09).