TUKUL 4: Melka Kunture Archaeology

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Garba III


The site of Garba III was excavated from 1970 to 1978. Three archaeological phases are visible: the lower level E is referable to the Middle/Upper Acheulean; higher up the two levels C and B belong to the final Acheulean; finally, level A marks the beginning of the Middle Stone Age. This site is particularly interesting for the purpose of analyzing the Acheulean/Middle Stone Age transition.

Stratigraphy and chronology

Five main levels, as well as several sub-levels, have been identified. The basal level E is represented by a fluvial formation covered by a layer of clay; at its top there is a level which is interesting from a palaeontological point of view (D). A channel, later filled with sand and gravel, was incised during an erosional phase; this yielded remains of human occupation (level C: Final Acheulean). This floor is covered by a layer of clay and one of highly ferrugineous sand (level B: Final Acheulean more evolved than the previous one). Fluvial sedimentation covered this sequence with ferrugineous sand and obsidian gravel: this is level A, the tool kit of which is related to the beginning of the Middle Stone Age.There are several dates for this site: about 700,000/600,000 years for level E, while the Final Acheulean levels can be dated between 300,000 and 200,000 years (levels C and B). Finally the Middle Stone Age could date back to 200,000/150,000 years (level A).


The frequency of faunal remains is variable from one level to the other. Hippopotamus amphibius, Giraffa sp. and some Alcelaphini, including the wildebeest (Connochaetes sp.), together with different species of antelopes have been identified as well as Cobus sp. Finally in level A some internal casts of Unio sp. have been recovered.

Lithic industry

The oldest lower level yielded some Acheulean artifacts which are not very characteristic. In level C the handaxes, although small in number, are quite sophisticated. The obsidian tool kit on flake is very abundant: side-scrapers, denticulated tools, but also some small bifacial pieces. In level B (Final Acheulean), these artifacts are even more highly evolved. The handaxes tend to be miniaturized and the small bifacial artifacts reveal a better knapping technique. The “Levallois” flaking technique is not frequently utilized. Some burins are also present. Finally level A presents a tool kit on obsidian flakes, without handaxes but with numerous end-scrapers and some bifacial points, which can be attributed to the beginning of the Middle Stone Age.


At the base of level B of Garba III three cranial fragments, including a fragment of parietal, have been found; they can be attributed to an archaic Homo sapiens. This means that Homo sapiens was still using Acheulean handaxes, but had also already invented the Middle Palaeolithic tool kit.

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