Casablanca of the origins

Al Maghreb Al Aqsa, Morocco, placed opposite East Africa often called “of the origins,” is also rich in testimonies of ancient settlements and occupies a pivotal position to explore the hypothesis of old crossings of the Strait of Gibraltar in both directions and their possible role in the first occupations of West Eurafrica. The many works that have been carried out there since the beginning of the last century have indeed delivered highly significant results in the fields of Quaternary stratigraphy, prehistory, animal paleontology, and paleoanthropology. If the first mention of prehistoric tools in Morocco related to the recent prehistory of the Tingitane peninsula and its southern margin (Bleicher, 1875), and without ignoring the discoveries made subsequently in different parts of the Kingdom. Undoubtedly, at Casablanca, the most acceptable early regional prehistory pages were written from 1904 (Pallary, 1908). Built on the ruins of the ancient city of Anfa that Leon the African endowed with Roman roots, Casablanca was a prosperous city of privateers under the Merinids before being raised by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century. Rebuilt under the Alaouites, it became a thriving commercial center and a stronghold renamed by the name of Dar Beida. The modern port city, considered for a long time as without a past, is rooted in human settlements of the most distant origins. This situation is perhaps not entirely the result of chance: “If there were no an attitude of mind hardly compatible with that of the historian, they would be tempted to see in the documents that prehistory offers them on Casablanca the sign of predestination. Not only the region, not only the immediate surroundings but the exact location of the city has been inhabited from earliest times” (Adam, 1968). Since the last century, Dar Beida has been internationally known for its rich prehistoric heritage and its mainly developed sequence of Quaternary deposits, which was first identified around the hill of Anfa (Lecointre, 1926; Neuville and Ruhlmann, 1941; Biberson, 1961 a and b).

The recognition of the ancient past of the ancient city of Anfa is undoubtedly a logical consequence of the decision taken in 1905 by Sultan Moulay Abd El-Aziz to build a modern port in Casablanca. At the start of the twentieth century, the port of Casablanca was only a small cove, and ships could not approach the coast. The transfer of goods and passengers is carried out using “barcasses,” which quickly became insufficient for Casablanca’s growing market and its hinterland. Winter tidal waves are added to the solid swells generated by winds from southwest to west and regularly destroy the quayside facilities. A subsidiary, created in April 1902 by Schneider and took the name of Moroccan Company in 1903, carried out some preliminary studies; it obtained a contract on February 2, 1907. For the construction of platforms, a railway line and several moles, and the completion of the customs warehouses and delegated the work to the Vigner-Schneider group, which itself sub- dealt with the Donnadix et Gindro company in Marseille (D’Angio, 1995). Work began in May 1907, and quarries began to be opened in the Ain Mazzi area. The construction of the port and the French control over customs angered the tribes of Chaouia and the destruction of the narrow gauge railway on July 30, 1907. This led to French troops landing between August 5 and 8 of the same year and set the process leading to the Protectorate Treaty on March 30, 1912. The sea had meanwhile destroyed men’s work twice, in 1909 and 1910, but the initial will was preserved, and the decision was taken to undertake a considerable extension of the port area.

The works were awarded on March 25, 1913, to Establishments Schneider, in association with the Moroccan Company and Hersent Frères. In 1919, they decided to give preference to riprap rather than concrete to lower (by 60%) The construction costs of the jetties, an easy thing moreover since they had the “good quarry” of Sidi Abderrahmane available (Encyclopédie colonial, 1948), which provided abundantly and inexpensively excellent materials for making concrete and riprap cores for jetties (Deloncle, 1921). For the large Moulay Youssef jetty construction, blocks weighing at least 500 kilograms were extracted up to 1,000 tonnes per day. At the end of 1926, the company had used 850,000 tonnes of natural blocks from the piers and quays quaternary formations. On the immediate outskirts of successive urban perimeters, the extraction of stone and aggregates thus took place in the Pleistocene marine and dune formations consolidated in stepped cords resting on the base of Paleozoic lands. The exploitation of the quarries led to the discovery of multiple prehistoric sites on the near-surface or buried in the strata’s depths. These exceptional remains aroused the learned world’s curiosity, geologists, geographers, paleontologists, and amateur and professional prehistorians—little by little improved knowledge on the most remote periods of regional prehistory.

The Casablanca Quaternary

Coastal formations are indeed experiencing exceptional development in Casablanca. For Georges Lecointre (1952), “the whole section of Morocco’s marine Quaternary is that of Casablanca. It is indeed the best-studied thanks to the many careers. It is certainly one of the most complete currently known on the surface of the globe”. In this remarkable succession of pale littorals, Pierre Biberson (1958) defines the stereotypes of the six “stages” of the chronostratigraphy of the Marine Quaternary of Morocco. The correlation, in the Casablanca series, of the marine and continental stages (Biberson, 1961a, 1963) allowed the elaboration of the chronostratigraphy of the Quaternary of Morocco, the conceptual framework of which was to serve as a reference throughout the Maghreb (Biberson, 1967; Beaudet, 1971). The importance of this exceptional series was immediately recognized: The Atlantic littoral of Morocco provides one of the complete Pleistocene successions of the world (Howell, 1961, 1962), mainly well established at Casablanca and it may be added Pliocene as well (Stearns, 1978).

One of the first to look at the Casablanca Quaternary was Louis Gentil, geographer, geologist and mineralogist, pioneer of Moroccan geology, and at the origin of the creation of the Cherifian Scientific Institute. He attributed the coastal dune complex to the Pliocene (Gentil, 1912), followed in 1917 by Georges Lecointre (Lecointre, 1918). The latter identified five shorelines on altimetric and paleontological bases, distinguishing high levels located around 75 / 80m above sea level and characterized by the fauna of Trochita trochiformis and Acanthina crassilabrum. A very well marked shoreline around 30m whose fauna is characterized by the presence of Purpura haemastoma and Patella safiana, a shoreline around 12 / 14m, then a well-marked shoreline around 5 / 7m and finally the backfilling of estuaries and current beaches (Lecointre, 1926). He concluded, however, with a warning: “they do not have the right, before having followed them step by step all along the Atlantic coast of Morocco, to suppose the existence of shorelines at a determined altitude for a given epoch, and even less to connect them to those of the Mediterranean, of equivalent altitude or approximately” (Lecointre, ibid.).

René Neuville and Armand Ruhlman then undertook a stratigraphic study, based on systematic and detailed surveys, particularly in the quarries of Sidi Abderrahmane. A reconstruction of the Casablanca coast’s evolution during the Quaternary was proposed to identify four shores of shores at altitudes of 90-100m, 55-60m, 28-30m, and 12-15m (Neuville and Ruhlman, 1941a ). Adopting the principle of altimetry correlation of Charles Depéret, they interpreted these paleorivages as Atlantic equivalents of the Mediterranean’s stages. They proposed the first correlations with the Sicilian, the Milazzian, the Tyrrhenian, and the Monastirian. Jacques Bourcart refuted these hypotheses and interpreted these deposits as a form of the high beach, transgressive, but entirely remodeled during the sea’s retreat in the low and flat coast (Bourcart, 1943). He later abandoned this extreme position, admitting with Georges Choubert and Jean Marçais that the Quaternary comprises “three distinct complexes separated by erosions” (Bourcart et al., 1949).

The beginning of the fifties was marked by the publication of important works that concerned pro parte the Casablanca Quaternary (Gigout, 1951; Lecointre, 1952; Dresch et al., 1952). All recognized the existence of a series of “raised beaches” along the Moroccan Atlantic coast, the age of which gradually decreases with altitude. Taking into account tectonic movements and a pyrogenic deformation of variable magnitude depending on the sector led to reject the absolute measurement of the levels as a criterion for identifying the different paleorivages: only the relative measures, the gullies, and the intercalations of continental formations counted. Based on malacological and stratigraphic studies carried out in the region of Casablanca, Georges Lecointre (1952) proposed a classification of the coastal marine Quaternary in which succeeds the regressive Pliocene with pectinids:

– Shorelines encountered around 90-100m and 55-60m altitude and characterized by the presence of two tropical species, Acanthina crassilabrum and Trochita trochiformis. They define the old Quaternary 1 (QA1);

– Littoral deposits encountered at an altitude of 20-25m and characterized by the dominance of northern littoral species, Littorina littorea, and Nucella lapillus. They constitute the old Quaternary 2 (QA2);

– Littoral deposits encountered between 20 and 30m altitude and characterized by the appearance of two species Purpura haemastoma and Patella safiana; they represent the recent Quaternary 1 (QR1);

– The 6-8m shoreline and associated deposits found in the internal depression called oulja and characterized by the same malacofauna as earlier deposits. They represent the recent Quaternary 2 (QR2) formalized under the term Ouljien (Gigout, 1948, 1949), without, however, proposing a locality of reference.

– Rias fillings, beach deposits encountered around + 2m, and the current beach, still characterized by the same malacofauna.

The 1950s were dominated by the debate of ideas, which mainly opposed Georges Choubert and Marcel Gigout. Were involved:

– Highlighting and interpreting the cyclical nature of the succession of transgressions and regressions;

– Proposals for correlations between the marine formations correlative of these eustatic cycles and the continental shapes correlative of climatic cycles;

– Pluvial and interpluvial (Choubert et al., 1956);

– Proposals which tend towards the construction of a coherent regional chronostratigraphic framework;

– Longer-distance correlation tests with the marine stages of the Mediterranean (Choubert, 1953, 1957, 1965a; Gigout and Gourinard, 1953; Gigout, 1957; Gigout and Raynal, 1957, 1959). On the coast of the Moroccan Meseta, “a country where the marine Quaternary occurs in simple tectonic conditions” (Gigout, 1958), are recognized “six marine pulsations: the Calabrian, original level at approximately 100m altitude; the Sicilian at 60m; the 30m Tyrrhenian; the sea from 15 to 20m; the Ouljien from 5 to 8m and finally the sea of ​​+ 2m.” (Gigout and Raynal, 1957).

An attempt to classify the marine Quaternary of Atlantic Morocco, the design of which closely resembled that of Marcel Gigout and René Raynal (1957, 1959) was proposed by Pierre Biberson (1958) based on “the succession of sea levels very characteristic of the Casablanca region” (Biberson, 1955, 1956b). Above the coastal deposits encountered at around + 2m and reported to the Mellahien (or Flandrien), four lines of shores were revealed, staggered between 5-8 and 100 m in altitude. The age of which ranged from the Late Pleistocene to the Early Pleistocene and which were interpreted as so many stratigraphic “stages” formalized using local toponyms (Biberson, op. Cit.):

– The Messaoudien, defined from the coastal formations encountered between 80 and 100m altitude in the quarries of Sidi Messaoud;

– The Maarifian, defined from the coastal formations encountered at an altitude of + 55-60m in the Tarit and Schneider quarries in the Maarif district;

– Anfatien, defined in the district of Anfa, from the formations encountered around 25-30m in the quarries of Sidi Abderrahmane and Thomas;

– The Ouljien, paleorivage whose associated formations met along the coast between 5 and 8m. This level had previously been formally defined (Gigout, 1949).

These coastal formations were interspersed dune and slope deposits attributed to continental “stages” defined in other Morocco regions: Moulouyen, Salétien, Amirien, Tensiftien, and Soltanien (Choubert et al., 1956). The stratigraphy detail which supported this classification was exposed in a broad synthesis devoted to Atlantic Morocco (Biberson, 1961a, and b). This chronostratigraphic framework quickly became a reference throughout the Maghreb and subsequently received some retouching and clarification (Biberson, 1963, 1967, 1970, 1971).

As part of a chronostratigraphic system developed by correlating sea levels with the five continental “pluvial stages” which had just been formalized (Choubert et al., 1956), the place reserved in their tests to the “marine transgression recorded around + 15-20m in Rabat and Casablanca” by Marcel Gigout, René Raynal, and Pierre Biberson revealed the concepts underlying this stratigraphic construction. This cycle was somehow “too much” between the Uljian and the Tyrrhenian / Anfatian. Without stratigraphic argument, Marcel Gigout and René Raynal (1959) concluded that the transgression of the sea said to be 15-20m “does not have the same importance as the transgressions which surround it” and they attributed only “the value of ‘an epicycle’. In the same way, Pierre Biberson described in Casablanca deposits between the Ouljien and the Anfatien. Still, he hesitated to recognize their autonomy and create a stage that he “could have called Harounien” (Biberson, 1961a, p. 141-146 ). He chooses to include these formations at the end of his Anfatian cycle, thus avoiding splitting the Tensiftian “pluvial-stage” in two. He later returned to this choice and defined a Harounian stage (Biberson, 1963, 1971). The conceptual model of five quaternary climatic cycles formalized by the five pluvial ones of the continental Quaternary stratigraphy. This thus constrained the development of the stratigraphic framework of the marine-littoral Quaternary, admitting the recognition of only four transgressive cycles. In contrast, the Casablanca stratigraphic succession offered all the possibilities of highlighting multiple processes.

The reference to the Casablanca stratigraphic system of Pierre Biberson was, therefore, necessary, despite some remarks and divergences between the authors, as to the correlations with Rabat’s levels, which is perfectly summarized in the summary article by Gaston Beaudet published in 1971. In this context, Philippe Brébion revised the content of malacofauna (Brébion, 1973, 1974, 1979) and discussed the correlations with the Mediterranean and the North Sea (Brébion, 1980). In 1978, Charles Edward Stearns questioned this schema based on a critical analysis of the work of Pierre Biberson:

– He highlighted the existence of several shorelines within the Messaoudien;

– He distinguished from classical Maarifian the so-called “regressive Maarifian” stratigraphic units of the quarries of Sidi Abderrahmane, created a Late Maarifian and therefore recognized the autonomy of more recent cycles but ante-Anfatien (stratigraphic units J and MNO of Neuville and Ruhlman);

– He split the Anfatian into three stratigraphic units.

Thus, even while remaining dependent on the stratigraphic interpretations of Pierre Biberson (in particular for the correlations between formations of the quarries of Sidi Abderrahmane and Thomas). The demonstration that the records of Casablanca could not be reduced to five or six marine stationings represented an essential step in studying the Atlantic palaeolittorals of Morocco. Finally, he sketched the first correlation of Casablanca’s coastal stratigraphic units with the aquatic isotopic oxygen stages.

A redefinition of Pierre Biberson’s chronostratigraphic framework and correlation hypotheses with European stratigraphic scales was then proposed in 1985 (Texier et al., 1985; Raynal et al., 1986).

This construction was based on recognizing three post-Pliocene “super-cycles” formalized by reusing the terms of Messaoudien, Anfatien, and Ouljien. But the definition of theoretical, abstract chronostratigraphic units, the creation of which was not based on any new lithographic or morphostratigraphic data, was questionable. The reuse of the classic floors’ name in a different sense from the original meaning only added an element of confusion.

A detailed lithostratigraphy of the formations recognized southwest of Casablanca, between the current coast and the cordon of Oulad Hamida, was finally established (Texier et al., 1994, 2002; Lefèvre, 2000). Based on the sequential interpretation of deposits, successions, and associations of facies (Walker and James 1992), it was completed by studying microfacies (El Graoui, 1994). Each sequence is characterized by a series of facies, which is always a vertical and temporal succession of intertidal sedimentary environments (associated with a paleorivage), supratidal. Then dune or continental slope, translating the installation of a high marine station followed by the ocean’s withdrawal and the corresponding continentalization of the coastline; it thus defines a formation, a litho-stratigraphic unit interpreted as the recording of a significant sedimentary cycle correlative of a glacio-eustatic cycle. In total, twelve appearances were recognized. Superimposed and nested, they combine into morpho-sedimentary units, expressed morphologically in the form of a “cord” nested in the anterior morpho-sedimentary company. A major unconformity separates it. Four morph sedimentary units, associated with four-tiered platforms, were defined: UMS of Oulja, UMS of Kef Haroun, UMS of Anfa, and UMS of Oulad Hamida. The interpretation of formations in terms of recording-responses of glacio-eustatic variations, supplemented by biostratigraphic data (Geraads, 2002) and dating by 14C methods (Lefèvre et al., 1994), Th / U, OSL, ESR (Rhodes et al., 1994) and racemization of amino acids (Occhietti et al., 1993, 2002) allow this lithostratigraphy to be inscribed in a chronostratigraphic framework in which the divisions are at the level of the series or of the subsystem.

In this sector, this includes the type localities of the classic Maarifian, Anfatien, Harounien and Ouljien “stages,” the new stratigraphic data concern:

– The most recent morphosedimentary system, between the ocean and the paleo-cliff which dominates the ouja, from Sidi Abderrahmane to Dar Bou Azza; a marine parking lot dated around 3.5 Ka B.P. (Reddad Ben Ali Formation) fits into the deposits associated with the paleo-cliff (Member of Aïn Roummana of the Dar Bou Azza Formation) correlated with isotopic stage 5 e and proposed as a neo-stratotype of the Ouljien (Lefèvre et al., 1994);

– The characterization of the immediately anterior morphosedimentary unit (Kef Haroun Formation), comprising the members of Oulad Aj J’ Mel and Bir Feghloul, whose deposits had never been recognized before, correlated respectively with the isotopic stages 9 and 7 (Lefèvre, 2000);

– The demonstration of a significant stratigraphic discontinuity between the Anfa cordon’s formations (Sidi Abderrahmane quarries) and those of the Oulad Hamida cordon (Thomas quarries), until then considered to be identical. This led to the definition of the Anfa Formation and the Oulad Hamida Formation as separate morphosedimentary units. A complete re-reading of these two cordons’ cross-sections and detailed surveys enabled the recognition of eight correlative marine parking units, where only two or three had previously been recognized (Texier et al., 1994, Lefèvre, 2000).

This morpholithostratigraphy does not agree with the ancient stratigraphic systems (Biberson, 1958, 1961a and b; Stearns, 1978). Therefore, it calls into question the stratigraphic foundations of the Moroccan Marine Quaternary’s chronostratigraphy defined in Casablanca. It highlights the current coast and Oulad Hamida (Thomas quarry) four morpho-sedimentary units – U.M.S. Oulja, Kef Haroun, Anfa (Sidi Abderrahmane and STIC quarries), and Oulad Hamida (Thomas quarry) – associated with four stepped platforms and separated by significant discontinuities.

The stratigraphic relationships between formations within a morpho-sedimentary unit are not always those that had been noted previously, and new stratigraphic units have been individualized. The lithographic and bio-stratigraphic arguments (malacofauna) served as the basis for the definition of the Harounian, Anfatien, and Maarifian “stages,” as well as their stratotypes, are therefore no longer acceptable. The Soltanian, Presoltanian, Tensiftien, and Amirien “continental stages,” inserted between these “marine stages,” follow the fate of the latter in the stratigraphic recomposition. The Presoltanian, for example, does not exist. It was defined in deposits (unit D of Member 4 of the Anfa Formation), which predate the “pulverulent limestones” of Sidi Abderrahmane-Extension (Kef Formation Haroun) reported to the Tensiftien, floor to which they should succeed.

Another example, the Admirian of Casablanca, actually boils down to the Aeolianite H of Member 2 of the Anfa Formation. The abandonment of these terms is therefore highly desirable.

Is a redefinition of “marine floors” and their stratotypes possible? Insofar as the terms Anfatien and Harounien are still used from Tangier to Agadir by reference to their Casablanca stratotype, it is necessary to specify their place in the new stratigraphic system:

– Unit G2 of Anfa Formation Member 4 may constitute the Anfatian stratotype. Its correlation with marine isotopic stage 11 accords relatively well with the general usage of the name. However, the altitude reached in Casablanca by this high eustatic level is + 20 / 25m, and the hot fauna described does not characterize it exclusively.

– The Harounian has been defined as the floor between the Uljian and the Anfatian. The Kef Haroun unit occupies this position but includes two formations – that of Bir Feghloul and Oulad Aj J’ Mel – which recorded two high eustatic levels of interglacial rank. If they need to define a neostratotype for Harounian, they should retain Oulad Aj J’ mel in the type locality. The Harounian thus specified is correlative of the marine isotopic stage 9. The altitude reached by this eustatic level in Casablanca is of the order of 13-15m, and its malacofauna, hot, is similar to those of the Anfatien and the Ouljien.

– The Ouljien does not pose any particular problem of definition. Deposits of the Aïn Roummana Member of the Dar Bou Azza Formation in the locality of Dar Bou Azza, dated by U / Th (Ouadia, 1998), racemization of amino acids (Occhietti et al., 1993 and 2002) and characterized by their malacofauna have been proposed as a stratotype (Lefèvre et al., 1994). It is correlative of the 5th marine isotopic stage.

The three Ouljien, Harounien, and Anfatien stages correspond to the three “hot” interglacials before the Holocene, correlative, respectively, to the isotopic sets 5e, 9, and 11 (Lefèvre, 2000).

But is the use of these terms still desirable? They represent only three Members or parts of formations out of twelve correlative figures of high marine stations during the last million years. Suppose they accept the principle of reusing these old floors. In that case, they must create as many bases as Formations or Members since it is at this level of the stratigraphic nomenclature that those redefined correspond. For obvious reasons, this hypothesis is excluded. Can reuse these terms to name the significant morpho-stratigraphic units – Ouljien for Oulja Formation, Harounien for Kef Haroun Formation, and Anfatien for Anfa Formation – but also create Hamidien for Oulad Formation Hamida? This hypothesis would have the advantage of simplicity and would be based on a morpho-lithostratigraphic reality. But, as in the case of the 1985 revision, the risk of confusion is excellent, linked to the reuse of terms in a new sense. Therefore, the abandonment of the reference to the old system is recommended, and the establishment of local series free from any reference to classical terms and defined from a fundamentally morpho lithostratigraphic approach is desirable.

The rich succession of paleolittorals and associated morpho-sedimentary units of Casablanca represents an exceptional sequence of global importance that spans the last six million years. A morpho lithostratigraphic system based on recognizing major sedimentary sequences correlating to glacio-eustatic cycles has been proposed and devotes the reference to the temporal model of the global cyclic chrono-climatic system. Stratigraphic units, defined as Formations and Members, are referred to as a frame whose chronostratigraphic divisions are placed at the series or subsystem level. The richness of the records makes the Casablanca lithostratigraphy the reference system for the Quaternary littoral of the Moroccan Atlantic domain, from the Lower Pleistocene to the Holocene (Table 3). Thus revised, it highlights the stratigraphic inconsistencies of previous interpretations and offers a new framework for ancient regional prehistory.

Ancient prehistory in Casablanca

The geologist Louis Gentil was also a pioneer in the field of prehistory. From 1904 to 1908, he discovered lithic industries on the peninsula of El Hank. Still, these materials remained unknown in the Institute of Human Palaeontology collections in Paris until their publication by Gobert and Raymond Vaufrey (1932). Paul Pallary (1907, 1908) also collected objects from El Hank in 1906 and 1907. Other finds, in Tit Mellil and Aïn Sebaa, have unfortunately remained unpublished.

With the creation of the Société de Préhistoire du Maroc on November 26, 1926, discoveries followed one another. The research was organized under the leadership of Maurice Antoine, who was its secretary-general (Antoine, 1951b). He then published the Prehistoric Directory of Chaouïa (1927a and b, 1928a, 1930a, 1931b) and the Notes of Moroccan Prehistory (1928b, 1929, 1930c, 1931a, 1932, 1933, 1934a and b, 1935, 1938, 1939, 1950, 1951a). He thus made known his harvests of lithic industries in the Martin quarry and pointed out the prehistoric surface riches in Casablanca. It is worth mentioning in particular three stations of the Lower Paleolithic (Chelléen of the Martin quarry, Acheuléen of the Halioua station of the oil tanks of Beaulieu in Aïn Sebaa) and the Atérien of the station of the Oued Goréa then subsequently of Tit Mellil. The many harvests and discoveries led him to advance that “Morocco has been inhabited and probably very inhabited, without interruption since the Chellean” (Antoine, 1930b).

René Neuville and Armand Ruhlmann concentrated their research in the Sidi Abderrahmane sector. In 1921, Sidi Abderrahmane was known only to its marabout, located on an island beaten by the waves and accessible only at low tide.

The great Schneider quarry’s exploitation then brought to light abundant prehistoric tools in strata testifying to their high antiquity. Excavations and studies led in 1941 to publish a stratigraphic synthesis of the Moroccan Atlantic Quaternary in which cultural data relating to lithic assemblages were integrated (Neuville and Ruhlman, 1941a). A new prehistoric civilization of Morocco was defined, the “Rahmanian” or “Clacto-Abbevillian,” by comparison with the large-shattered Clactonian and the rough-sided Abbevillian of Europe (Neuville and Ruhlman, 1941b). In correspondence of August 18, 1941, René Neuville had mentioned this choice of terminology and the visit to Casablanca by Abbé Breuil. As he says, the Wandering Abbot spent a fortnight here to see their excavations, which (don’t be angry!) confirm some of his theories. He doesn’t have the space to tell him about it here but will send him the brief as soon as it is published, which is to say in about a month and a half. Know, in the meantime, that they have, on a Sicilian beach of regression, an industry to which they have given the somewhat barbaric name of “clacto-Abbevillian” (Don’t be terrified!) Henri Breuil, then residing in Portugal, shared his Moroccan observations with Jean Bouyssonie who relayed them to Raymond Vaufrey: “the discoveries of Morocco are serious and important: a Clactono-Levalloisien fairly rolled, an Acheulean little rolled in fixed dunes corresponding to different terraces ”; then he returned to Morocco for two months, from October 6 to December 17, 1941.


From 1947, Pierre Biberson, Civil Controller in Morocco since 1937, was appointed to Casablanca (Biberson, 1962). Maurice Antoine succeeded Armand Ruhlman in 1948 as head of the Antiquities Service. He entrusted monitoring the quarries that came under his command to Pierre Biberson, who was thus led to resuming the work of his predecessors on the sea levels of the coastal zone of Casablanca. He assumed the supervision of quarries and public works sites in collaboration with two young prehistorians, Plessis and de Boofzheim (Biberson, op. Cit. And 1952, 1955, 1956a, 1958; Mieg de Boofzheim and Plessis, 1954; Capitant and Mieg de Boofzheim, 1954; Mieg de Bofzheim et al., 1954; Mieg de Bofzheim, 1957). Many old or new quarry operations were in full swing due to the rapid extension of the incredible Moroccan metropolis, and they allowed the recognition of new prehistoric sites. In 1950-51, Pierre Biberson exploited the Sidi Abderrahmane – Extension deposit. In response to the ongoing complaints of several learned societies and view of its unavoidable scientific interest, the site of SidiAbderrahmane was the first prehistoric site in Morocco to be the subject of a classification decree by Dahir of May 12, 1951. It was alas poorly protected, and the work of the quarry continued and destroyed a large part of the old units, where overlying consolidated deposits did not cover them. In 1952, the second Pan-African Prehistory Congress, which was held in Algiers, visited Casablanca’s quarries as part of its “E” excursion (Biberson, 1952a, 1952b) and could only observe the disaster. Relations between archaeologists and quarrymen deteriorated following the destruction of the initially classified site. Scientific work was therefore now done between the excavators: “They hardly had a few seconds between the departure of one truck and the arrival of the next one to rush them to the front. How many wonders must have been thrown into the sea in this way” (Antoine, 1952). After the congress, Schneider quarry’s extension to the northeast allowed the discovery of new cavities. From 1952 to 1956, seven caves were successively unearthed in the “Cunette de Sidi Abderrahmane,” along a dead cliff witnessing a high sea level around 30 m above the ocean: the cave of the Rhinoceros, Elephant cave, Gazelle cave, Horse cave, Bear cave, Cap Chatelier and Littorines cave (Biberson, 1953).

In the latter, Pierre Biberson discovered in 1955, fossil human remains in level F. They belonged to a “probable Pithecanthropian certainly very close to Atlanthropus mauritanicus” (Arambourg and Biberson 1955, 1956; Biberson, 1956). These remains consist of two portions of the jawbones.

While the strength of some teeth (P3 and M2) is comparable to that of Tighenif’s specimens, others (M1 and M3) nevertheless have smaller dimensions (Hublin, 1991). They were associated with a tool attributed to the “evolved” Acheulean of Morocco (Biberson, op. Cit.) And reinforced the interest of the quarry where an exceptional concentration of pen contemporary sites was found.

Made available to the Musée de l’Homme in January 1957, Pierre Biberson then undertook rational excavations at Sidi Abderrahmane, whose operation had been interrupted since working on the port of Casablanca ceased. He continued this work in November-December 1957 and May-June 1958 in Cap Chatelier and the cave of the bears in the company of Camille Arambourg (Souville, 1960). Seconded to the CNRS in 1969, he wrote a masterful synthesis devoted to the prehistory of Atlantic Morocco in its palaeogeographical framework (Biberson, 1961a and b), the culmination of half a century of roughly synchronous work of the Protectorate period. (Vaufrey, 1955).

Pierre Biberson had not exploited the fossil finds from the Thomas I quarry before leaving Morocco and spoke very little of them in his 1961 summary: in fact, the marine deposits of this quarry him. Posed a problem of interpretation because of their altitude higher than that of those of the career of Sidi Abderrahmane to which he connected them. However, subsequently, this exploitation was the object of scattered collections of fauna and industry. In 1969, Philippe Beriro, the foreman’s son, discovered a left portion of a human mandible attributed to Atlanthropus mauritanicus (Ennouchi, 1969). Considered to be female (Sausse, 1975), it presents “a relative grace which contrasts with the robustness of the teeth, and the height and thickness of the mandibular body place it “close to the minimum recorded in the Homo erectus (Hublin, 1991). It has more recently been attributed to a representative of Homo rhodesiensis (Hublin, 2001).

The collections continued, mainly carried out by Philippe Beriro, who carried out very detailed stratigraphic surveys, with close chronological interpretations and at the end of March 1972, he discovered new human fossils in a cave in the Thomas III quarry (today’ hui Oulad Hamida 1) (Ennouchi, 1972, 1975, 1976). These remains consisted of a craniofacial fragment (Figure 15), a small portion of the jawbone, and isolated teeth. They were associated with fauna and the lithic industry. The operation of the quarry quickly destroyed this cavity. The collections resulting from these collections were studied (Geraads, 1980; Geraads et al., 1980), then deposited by Philippe Beriro in 1993 at the Archaeological Museum of Rabat.

In 1978 and 1979, excavations were carried out at Sidi Abderrahmane-Cunette, in Cap Chatelier (figures 12 and 16) and at the same level towards the entrance of the cunette, at locus 100. Along the western flank of the river “Cunette,” Cap Chatelier is part of a part of paleorivage in a cliff in front of which accumulated the beach’s deposits than of a slope. The industry of level D2 of the Pierre Biberson excavations preserved at the archaeological museum of Rabat comprises bifaces of various sizes and morphologies, sometimes very thin, cleavers, and fragments’ production is ensured by the management of Victoria West cores, discoid, and Levallois with preferential brightness. The excavation concerned the upper part of level 4 (equivalent to the upper part of level D2) (Debenath et al., 1984).

In 1979, excavations were also carried out on approximately 65 m2 in the upper levels of the old Helaoui quarry (Sidi Al Khadir) (figures 17 and 18), revealing a quartzite debitage workshop in “powdery limestone” formations topped by. by a small dune massif and in more recent “red silts” containing Upper Acheulean.

An excavation was then undertaken in Sidi AbderrahmaneExtension in 1982 on 49 m2 (Debenath et al., 1986). It revealed the existence of two archaeological levels above the raw pudding. The oldest (layer three bases) yielded better “finished” objects than those of the upper level (layer four floors). Which was the subject of more extensive excavations and produced an abundant material rich in bifaces often with terminal bevel and in cleavers of various types; next to unifacial and bifacial discoid cores, they find some hearts with preferential luster. As the site was backfilled in the winter of 1982, excavations could not be continued. Lithostratigraphic studies have shown that the deposits of Sidi Abderrahmane-Extension are located at the top of the Oulad Aj Jmel Member of the Kef El Haroun Formation and are more recent than those of the D2 level of Cap Chatelier (Member 3 of the Formation of ‘Anfa): their age cannot, therefore, exceed 0.367 ± 34 Ma (Table 4) (Lefèvre and Raynal, 2002; Texier et al., 2002).

Inside the cracks thus opened, excavations from 1989 onwards revealed a fossil fauna of 2.5 Ma and of unparalleled richness in North Africa: around 57 species of mammals are represented, including a dozen new ones (Geraads, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2006, 2008; Geraads and Amani, 1998; Geraads and Metz-Muller, 1999; Bailon, 2000; Mourer and Geraads, 2010; Raynal et al., 1990; Gunnel et al., 2011). Among them are an essential series of remains of hipparions, a considerable variety of antelopes, gazelles, 23 species of carnivores, including a new cheetah and several modern hyenas, numerous remains of Suidae, a family essential for biostratigraphy in Africa, monkey remains, including the Atlantic Theropithecus (Alemseged and Geraads, 1998). This fauna has many similarities with those of East Africa, which implies that frequent exchanges took place before and during this period at the time of an excellent aridity crisis. Ahl al Oughlam, however, has not yielded any remains of the human line, while at the same time, East Africa is teeming with hominid sites.

From 1988, work could develop in the old Thomas quarries, which were partly disused. The Thomas I career has since proved to be a pivotal point in the Casablanca streak. It had been re-examined in 1985, and the investigations carried out then revealed the existence of an ancient Acheulean tool contained in marly limestones of a stratigraphic unit called L (Raynal and Texier, 1989).

It was only after the cessation of material extraction and partial filling of the site that suitable modern excavations could finally be undertaken in the senior levels and gradually extended to the complex of caves preserved on the career’s north-eastern wall.

The ancient Acheulean of the lower part of level L (L1) presents true trihedrons, bifaces with successive shaping of edges, and cleavers on shards. These objects indeed correspond to quite different subsistence activities linked to the treatment of carcasses and at the butcher shop. They also encounter actual spheroids and subspheroids, a wide variety of polyhedra, polyhedral cores, and small flint pebbles exploded by bipolar debitage (the fragments of which have not been found whose function is therefore unknown). Debitage activities took place on-site since there are a considerable number of whole or broken hammers. The debitage is discoid for some cores, and the few retouched tools are denticulate flakes (Raynal et al., 2001, 2002). In the upper part of the L level (L5), the only production of fragments was observed, sometimes from centripetal, sub-oval unifacial nuclei.

The second exciting level of the Thomas 1 quarry is that of the Hominid Cave (GH). The current excavations reveal an assemblage of cut pebbles, cores, and very rare bifaces, associated with rich fauna and new human fossils (Raynal et al., 2010, 2011). In 1991, a mine shot in the southwest part of the former Thomas III quarry, now called Oulad Hamida, revealed the bottom of a cavity, which quickly became significantly archaeological richness. The cave of the Rhinoceros (GDR) was discovered, and its scientific exploitation would begin in the problematic context of an urgent rescue operation organized by the National Institute of Archaeological Sciences and Heritage under the direction of MA El Hahjraoui and one of them (Raynal et al., 1993). In 1991, the Feline Cave was also discovered in the Oulad Hamida 2 quarry (figures 24 and 25) (Raynal et al., 2008). It presented a complex filling that could not be studied in detail given the urgency and the extreme brevity of the intervention but included sooty or reddened layers containing large charred or charred bones. The bones come from two main groups, lower and upper; the few tools present in the upper level show a massive pebbles component, frequent in the regional water-Mousterian complex. The lower level reveals a large carnivore den (Daujeard et al., 2011). In 1992, then in 1995, after a cleaning that evacuated more than 200 trucks of garbage from the wild dump of the shantytown overlooking it, the excavations were able to resume 24 m2 in the cave of the Bears in Sidi Abderrahmane – Cunette (figures 12 and 26 ). The archaeological material shows different wear degrees: 635 rolled objects and 2419 fresher, all excavations combined. It is an Acheulean contemporary at least of the base of Member 4 of the Anfa Formation, brought back to isotopic stage 11. They can recognize a production chain of large flakes from large discoid cores intended for manufacturing. Typical bifaces on fragments; a chain for shaping bifaces is also attested from pebbles; in both cases, the bifaces are often symmetrical; there are also smaller bifacial cores as polyhedral cores; large flakes are recycled into hearts on chips (Mohib, 1993, 2001).

In 2005, the Gazelles cave in Dar Bouazza was discovered (figures 24 and 27). It presented several stratigraphic assemblages resulting from aeolian contributions and polyphase colluvializations (superficial karst). The tools discovered associated with fauna are characteristic of the Moustéro-Atérien, and unpublished OSL dating from different units confirms this interpretation. The paleontological study emphasizes the arid nature of large fauna (Geraads et al., 2010), and human remains have also been reported (Bougariane et al., 2010; Daujeard et al., 2011). In connection with the Casablanca program excavations, several re-examinations of old lithic collections or new paleontological series have fed into INSAP end-of-study dissertations and theses and have completed this panorama. They focused on the Grotte des Ours and Cap Chatelier in Sidi Abderrahmane, the M level of Sidi Abderrahmane Former Exploitation, the STIC, the Rhino cave in the Oulad Hamida 1 quarry, and the hominid cave in the Thomas I quarry. (Bernoussi, 1992, 1994, 1997; El Azzouzi, 1992; Hossini, 2002, 2008; Mohib, 1991, 1993, 2001; Nami, 1991).

Recently, new human remains have been discovered in the old Thomas quarries: Hominid cave in the Thomas I quarry and the Rhinoceros cave in the Oulad Hamida 1 quarry (figures 17 and 28). Taphonomic studies demonstrate the complexity of humans’ relationships and the animal environment strategies for acquiring meat resources, competition with carnivores in the Middle Pleistocene (Raynal et al., 2010, 2011; Daujeard et al., 2013). Technical studies underline the variability of lithic production systems and functional expressions, making it possible to revisit and put into perspective the classical cultural names of the regional ancient Paleolithic.

The Acheulean sequence of Casablanca, revealed by a century of work, shows, depending on the level, significant variability in the numbers of bifaces, tools on pebbles, and fragments’ production. Certainly, harvesting conditions have improved over time and the production of components, for example, is better represented in the series from rational excavations after the 1950s.

The proportions of bifacial pieces (Kleinsdienst, 1962, 1967), overvalued by old selective harvests, have long weighed on the debate on the definition of Acheulean in Africa: Stellenbosch and Fauresmith (Riet Lowe, 1948), then Chelles-Acheul -Culture (Leakey, 1951) and finally The Hand-Ax-Culture (Riet Lowe, 1952a and b) or “biface civilization” (Biberson, 1961b); then the classification escaped too many subdivisions (Balout, 1967) while retaining a ternary scheme (Isaac, 1977) but in which an old set and a current set are differentiated: this is the case of Morocco. The assemblages of the ancient Paleolithic of North Africa, if they are however still far from being known appropriately, escape anyway from the false simplicity of the classification in “modes 1 and 2” (Clark, 1968), which caricatured the technical universes of the Oldowayan and the Acheulean by masking their technical complexity and hampering their redefinition. Only the exploitation of ancient sites over huge areas and the combined implementation of technological, traceological, and taphonomic approaches can significantly specify the activities practiced and renew lithic assemblages’ cultural perception. They are still far from it, but a few leads emerge.

In Morocco, for what it was classic to call the ancient and middle regional Acheulean (Balout, 1955), and taking into account the erroneous stratigraphic attributions exposed above. A clear difference is perceptible between the outdoor sites or in caves with the exploitation of extensive fauna (Thomas 1 L1, the lair of the Rhinoceros, STIC, Sidi Abderrahmane M). Rich in bifacial macro-tools and cleavers, and sites in caves or the open air with the exploitation of fauna medium to small in size (Thomas 1 L5, Thomas Hominid Cave, Rhinoceros Cave, upper level). Rich in debitage and cores (including SSDA debitage cut pebbles), or even debitage workshops (Sidi Al Khadir-Helaoui, for example), qualified as such only in the absence of preserved faunal remains. The freedom of the technical sequences observed for shaping the bifacial pieces suggests particular ease in working the rough quartzite modules and an adaptation of the gestures to the designed projects. Simultaneously, the variability of the morphologies of the retouched active parts undoubtedly expresses a predetermination for activities specialized. Finally, several bifacial pieces are managed as cores and bear in mind the preparation and exploitation patterns of predetermined later flake cores and foreshadow the Middle Paleolithic.

In summary, this work’s main results can be listed as follows (Table 4), in a revised stratigraphic framework that highlights inconsistencies in some ancient correlations and places paleoanthropological and cultural landmarks in logical succession.

– The ancient stages of the Pre-Acheulean that Biberson thought he discerned do not exist and are either geofacts or more recent industries: there is not yet a known Oldowayan (in the chronological or technical sense of the term) in Morocco;

– The Acheulean that Biberson considered to be ancient, coming from the M level of Sidi Abderrahmane, only dates from around 0.6 Ma;

– But there is a much older term that can be qualified as the first regional Acheulean, located around 1 Ma, or even up to 1.4 Ma, in-unit L of the Thomas I quarry, with the production of trifacial pieces and bifacial and systematic presentation of fragments by elementary, recurrent centripetal and discoid systems;

– A more recent term which they will qualify as second regional Acheulean is represented from 0.7 to 0.6 Ma in the M level of the Sidi AbderrhamaneGrande Exploitation quarry and the STIC quarry; it lasts until isotopic stage 11 represented in Sidi Abderrahmane by the series of Cap Chatelier (lower levels) and the cave of the bears; the assemblages of the lower level of the Rhinoceros Cave and the Hominid Cave of the Thomas I quarry, located around 0.6-0.5 Ma, show both the production of bifacial pieces and the massive production of fragments by various methods (Raynal et al., 2010, 2011);

– An even more “recent” term from the second regional Acheulean is very polymorphic; at Cap Chatelier. The tool that Biberson (1961b) had located around 150 ka and in which appears the preferential chip debitage associated with a bifacial production (“Mousterian of Moroccan Acheulean tradition” and Victoria West debitage is older than 0.367 ± 34 Ma. The series of the cave of Littorines, the eponymous site of “the man of Sidi Abderrahmane” is appreciably contemporary but the upper level of Sidi Abderrahmane-Extension, where cores with preferential brightness can also be observed and that Biberson (op. Cit.) Thought older than that of Cap Chatelier, would therefore be appreciably more recent. They do not follow the development of tools on flakes known elsewhere in the Upper Acheulean, which foreshadows the beginning of the Middle Paleolithic but remains unknown in Casablanca’s stratigraphy. He may have been present at the now destroyed site of Tit Mellil;

Numerous sections have been shown in the region of Casablanca and more widely throughout the northwest of Morocco. The “red silts” of the Upper Pleistocene, which cover the slopes and plug the depressions, frequently contain Acheulean style bifaces in a secondary position at their base, then assemblages of the water-Mousterian complex and the Iberomaurusian in their middle and upper parts.

It is, therefore, a mostly upbeat assessment that can be drawn at the end of the last thirty years of work, a period that has seen an in-depth renewal of knowledge and conceptions of the Casablanca sequence. Today’s only thing is the essential safeguarding of significant sites, accompanied by judicious scientific and museum development.

Please follow and like us:
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial
Font Resize