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Neolithic Capsian Culture Stone Axe

Neolithic Capsian Culture Stone Axe

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The Capsian culture, c. 6000 BC - 3000 BC, Mali, Southern Sahara

Magnificent large African Neolithic Capsian culture knapped flint celt axe exhibiting beautiful colours of red and grayish brown throughout the flint. The polished surface along the blade and faces was a technological advancement of Neolithic cultures - polishing the flaked stone made it easier to cut trees and cultivate the land. This type axe would have been inserted into a wooden handle and further lashed in place to secure it to the shaft. Similar to the European Neolithic celt axes, the African Neolithic celt axes were either completely flaked or made by grinding a blank and finishing by knapping. The Capsian culture was a Mesolithic and Neolithic culture centered in the eastern Maghreb (eastern Algeria and west-central Tunisia) that lasted from about 8000 to 2700 BC. It was defined in 1909 with the excavation of the site of El-Mekta, located near  Gafsa, which was known as Capsa in Roman times. During this period, the environment of the Maghreb was open savanna, much like modern East Africa, with Mediterranean forests at higher altitudes where the initial phase overlaps with the African humid period. Hunting and snail-collecting seem to have formed the basis of the economy. The Capsian diet included a wide variety of animals, ranging from aurochs and hartebeest to hares, there is little evidence concerning plants eaten. Nothing is known about Capsian religion, but their burial methods suggest a belief in an afterlife. Decorative art is widely found at their sites, including figurative and abstract rock art, and ochre is found coloring both tools and corpses. Ostrich eggshells were used to make beads and containers; seashells were used for necklaces. 

Good condition. Age-related wear and abrasion. Intact without repairs. Minor nicks and chips to peripheries. Nice mineral deposits and iron hued patina in flaked areas. Size approx. 13,8cm x 6,8cm x 2,8cm. 

Provenance: Private collection from Morocco

References and further reading:

Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene Maghreb. In Peregrine, Peter Neal; Ember, Melvin (eds.). Encyclopedia of Prehistory, Vol. 1 : Africa. New York: Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers, 2001, pp. 129–149. (

Technological and Cultural Change Among the Last Hunter-Gatherers of the Maghreb: The Capsian (10,000–6000 B.P.), Noura Rahmani, Journal of World Prehistory 18, no. 1 (2004): 57–105. (

Paleoenvironments and Epi Paleolithic economies in the Maghreb (ca. 20,000 to 5000 B.C.), David Lubell, In, J.D. Clark & S.A. Brandt (eds.), From Hunters to Farmers: The Causes and Consequences of Food Production in Africa, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984 pp. 41–56.(

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