Emilie Campmas & Roland Nespoulet

Perception of the Atlantic Moroccan Coastal Occupation by Prehistoric Populations: Contribution of Current Mussel Gatherer Ethnographic Observations

Two main periods in the archaeological record both in Africa and Europe highlight past coastal occupations across these regions. The two periods involve episodes of high sea levels, 130,000-75,000 BP approximately 12,000 BP respectively. These periods differ completely in terms of population densities and socio-economic organization and subsequently generate different kinds of coastal occupation records. In the Témara-Rabat region which is located along the Moroccan Atlantic coast, both Pleistocene and Holocene coastal occupation records show differences in mollusc usage. Today, the presence of mussel gatherers provides a window to observe the techniques of gathering and treatment of the molluscs that are also evident in the archaeological record even with different behaviour and organization observations (e.g. archaeologists concentrate on environmental constraints and ethnological observations focus on societal aspects). Ethnological investigations therefore also provide fruitful avenues of reflection for archaeological interpretations and we have performed a preliminary field project that utilise both ethnologists and archaeologists. The observations recorded raise many questions and provides reflection on prehistoric coastal occupations and behaviours, such as the ‘site of aggregation linked to one activity’ model, the duration of site occupation and the duration of coastal occupation.

Keywords: ethnology, current mussel gatherers, archaeology, Northwest Africa, Moroccan Atlantic coast, Témara-Rabat.

Figure: Current mussel gatherers of Témara, Rabat, Morocco (© Emilie Campmas).