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Research Article

Lakeside Cemeteries in the Sahara: 5000 Years of Holocene Population and Environmental Change

  • Paul C. Sereno mail,

    dinosaur@uchicago.edu

    Affiliation: Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

    X
  • Elena A. A. Garcea,

    Affiliation: Dipartimento di Filologia e Storia, University of Cassino, Cassino, Italy

    X
  • Hélène Jousse,

    Affiliation: Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, Wien, Austria

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  • Christopher M. Stojanowski,

    Affiliation: School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, United States of America

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  • Jean-François Saliège,

    Affiliation: Laboratoire d'Océanographie et du Climat Expérimentations et Approches Numériques, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France

    X
  • Abdoulaye Maga,

    Affiliations: Direction de L'Education, Culture, Science et Technologie, Economic Community of West African States Commission, Abuja, Nigeria, Institut des Sciences Humaines, Université de Niamey, Niamey, République du Niger

    X
  • Oumarou A. Ide,

    Affiliation: Institut des Sciences Humaines, Université de Niamey, Niamey, République du Niger

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  • Kelly J. Knudson,

    Affiliation: School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, United States of America

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  • Anna Maria Mercuri,

    Affiliation: Dipartimento del Museo di Paleobiologia e dell'Orto Botanico, Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy

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  • Thomas W. Stafford Jr.,

    Affiliation: Stafford Research Laboratories, Inc., Lafayette, Colorado, United States of America

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  • Thomas G. Kaye,

    Affiliation: Burke Museum of Natural History, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States of America

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  • Carlo Giraudi,

    Affiliation: Ente per le Nuove Tecnologie, l'Energia e l'Ambiente, Rome, Italy

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  • Isabella Massamba N'siala,

    Affiliation: Dipartimento del Museo di Paleobiologia e dell'Orto Botanico, Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy

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  • Enzo Cocca,

    Affiliation: Dipartimento di Scienze Storiche, Antropologiche e Archeologiche dell'Antichità, University of Rome “La Sapienza,” Rome, Italy

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  • Hannah M. Moots,

    Affiliation: Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

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  • Didier B. Dutheil,

    Affiliation: Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris, France

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  • Jeffrey P. Stivers

    Affiliation: Federal Way, Washington, United States of America

    Current address: North Bend, Washington, United States of America

    X
  • Published: August 14, 2008
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002995

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The Demise of the Ancient World Habitants

Posted by amosor on 23 Dec 2010 at 13:19 GMT

This is the most fascinating discovery of the present millennium. In very precise work, Prof Paul C. Sereno and his staff unearthed approximately 200 fossils of humans during their expedition in the Sahara. Their conclusions were linked to biosocial and climatic changes in the southern Sahara and the place of the fieldwork was described as a very well localized cemetery.
However, is it so? The radiocarbon (14C AMS) dating tests on the human skeletons of the particular Gobero bones yielded different results for Kiffians - between 7390 and 8640 years old (tall, robust-boned people over 2 meters high); and Tenerean people - between 4250 and 5940 years old (shorter in stature and lighter in build). According to Sereno at al. the Gobero cemetery served these two very distinct ethnic groups for more than four thousands years with an interval of at least one millennia due to abandonment of the area as a result of severe aridification. Is it possible that after such a long abandonment the Kiffians' cemetery could stand the test of time and then be found and chosen by the Tenereans for the same purpose? This wonderful article presents some of the descriptions and laboratory facts that suggest that a sudden catastrophic death of the whole community could have taken place, rather than the natural deaths and burials of its members. It appears that for the first time in the history, the human remains of the lost old civilization were found!
The following features of the skeletons as a hyperflexed posture, the position of the hands over the mouth and feet crossed may indicate too the instinctive movement of protection before something huge about to fall upon them (pic.6 C and 7 A, B). The fear of something monstrous, such as a super gigantic blazing wave appearing before their eyes, could have composed these specific skeletal postures in almost all cases. Their bent-forward bodies, braced against the falling object, were pressed in and buried under the wave of fiery mud and were fossilized, some of them together with the turtle carapace, ceramics, charcoal and middens. The skeletal position of two children (the older child carrying the younger on this back - probably his younger sibling), with intertwined arms and with hands around the kneeling female (described in the article as the triple burial), indicate the typical self-defense posture of scared children running towards a mother, in the face of a sudden danger. They try to find protection in her arms but were caught exactly in this position, as if shot in a photograph, by the falling giant wave of sticky hot magma and were fossilized (pic.7 E, F). That is why these skeletons were preserved so well until now, some with dark-stained skulls and bones as a result of exposure to very high temperatures. It is worth noting that the skulls' fragmentation is most probably the result of high pressure inside the skulls (close box) due to the rapid evaporation of the water inside the brain after the bodies were embedded in the hot magma; something that resembles the cracked shells of rapidly boiled eggs (pic.6 C, D,E and 7D).
It appears clear that the Gobero skeletons belong to the group of healthy habitants, juveniles, adult males and females – the average cross-section of a regular healthy community, making the site a mass grave rather than a cemetery. It is very interesting to note that skeletons of toddlers or of seniors over 60 years old were not described. Was the nourishment of Kiffians (Giants) different from the Tenerean that caused the radiocarbon C14 concentrations diverse? Or just laboratory deflection?
But, what is amazing is that these two anatomically different habitants living in the time frame of the collision are also mentioned in the Bible - "There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men and they bore children to them…" Genesis Chapter 6:4. However, what is really strange is that near this site a large skull of the carnivorous dinosaur Carcharodontosaurus saharicus was found, and its age of 90 millions years was estimated by the age of the fossil bed. As far as is known, no radiometric examination was carried out on this creature. No less interesting is the question: what would happen if the age of the fossilized Gobero humans' skeletons could be determined by the radioactive elements occurring within the bed rock in association with these fossils? No doubt, the age would be the same for the Kiffians and Tenereans and both would be considered as having lived side by side; and with a bit of vivid imagination
due to clear anatomical disparities, would be classified as masters and slaves.
Nonetheless, both Kiffians and Tenereans remain chronologically within the scale of the Mars/Earth collision 10 000 years ago (± 3 000).
Are there different criteria for estimating the age of human fossils and of dinosaurs in the Earth's scientific circles? Practically, both fossils might be very old or very young, it would depend upon the method applied; otherwise, it seems that paleontology embraces a bipolar process of age estimation, just to defend the theory of dinosaurs' extinction millions years ago and to "protect" the theory of the young age of Homo Sapiens as the last element in the evolutionary chain.

No competing interests declared.