Subsistence strategies in the Early Neolithic of Morocco
The transition from hunter-gathering to food-producing societies in the Mediterranean zone of north Africa was complex and variable, likely influenced by local ecological conditions as well as the socio-economic origins of the population. The adoption of domestic plants and animals was piecemeal, with hunting and gathering continuing as an important part of local subsistence strategies. Here, we investigate the timing and extent of the adoption of agricultural practices, namely herding and cultivation, in three diverse coastal and inland Early Neolithic sites in the Mediterranean Maghreb region, namely Ifri Oudadane, Ifri n’Etsedda and Hassi Ouenzga. Results from absorbed lipid residues extracted from 306 potsherds from these sites are correlated with information from faunal and archaeobotanical assemblages. Our findings suggest that agricultural practices, regarded as being of Neolithic origin, were never fully adopted in the Maghreb but rather that these farmer/foragers adopted a range of strategies including low-level food production (exploiting cereals and animal products, including meat and milk), gathering of wild plants and marine shellfish, and hunting both small and large sized game. These broad-spectrum farmer/foragers were clearly both flexible and resourceful and likely adapted their subsistence practices to maximise resource availability in an increasingly unpredictable environment.