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4 April 2013
Stone-Age skeletons unearthed in Sahara desert

Archaeologists have uncovered 20 Stone-Age skeletons in and around a rock shelter in Libya's Sahara desert. The skeletons date between 8,000 and 4,200 years ago. The team concluded that the skeletons were buried over the course of four millennia, with most of the remains in the rock shelter buried between 7,300 and 5,600 years ago.
     The site, called Wadi Takarkori, lies very close to the main road from Libya to Niger. From about 8,000 to 6,000 years ago, the region was filled with scrubby vegetation and seasonal green patches. Stunning rock art depicts ancient herding animals, such as cows.
     About 15 women and children were buried in the rock shelter. Starting 4,500 years ago when the region became more arid, five men and juveniles were buried under giant heaps of stones outside the shelter. Rock art confirms the climate change, as cave paintings began to depict goats, which need much less water to graze.
     University of Cambridge archaeologist Mary Anne Tafuri and her colleague Savino di Lernia began excavating the site between 2003 and 2006. At the same site, archaeologists uncovered huts, animal bones and pots with traces of the earliest fermented dairy products in Africa.
     The region as a whole is full of hundreds of sites yet to be excavated, said Luigi Boitani, a biologist at Sapienza University of Rome, who has worked on archaeological sites in the region. "The area is an untapped treasure," Boitani said.

Edited from LiveScience (7 March 2013)

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