A Middle Stone Age occupation site at Porc Epic Cave, Dire Dawa (east-central Ethiopia)

J. Desmond Clark, Kenneth D. Williamson, Joseph W. Michels, Curtis A. Marean

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60 Scopus citations


This paper describes the results of the 1974 excavations at Porc Epic Cave, Dire Dawa. Following a summary of Dr M.A.J. Williams' interpretation of the stratigraphic succession and geological history of the cave and its contained deposits, the cultural sequence is described and an explanatory model presented. The 1974 excavation showed the Middle Stone Age layers to be sealed under a massive dripstone, except in the front part of the cave where erosion and later deposition had produced the seeming mixing of Middle and Later Stone Age artifacts observed by the 1933 excavators. Artifacts are associated with comminuted and often burnt bone round what appear to be hearths. Tools consist predominantly of points, scrapers and edge damaged blade and flake forms. The specialized nature of the retouched and utilized tools, together with the relative inaccessibility of the cave and the comminuted nature of the bone waste, suggest the possible use of the cave as a hunting camp at seasons when game migrated into the escarpment from the Afar Plains. The wide-ranging habits of the occupants are attested by the presence of obsidian and basalt artifacts, the raw material for which is not found in the immediate vicinity of the site. On the basis of the human jaw fragment discovered in 1933, the Middle Stone Age occupants of the cave are said to show both neanderthal and non-neanderthal features. Hydration dates for obsidian artifacts from the Middle Stone Age deposit indicate that the cave was occupied between about 61,000 and 77,500 bp. These results confirm that the Proc Epic occurrences are of comparable age to those from Middle Stone Age localities in other parts of the continent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)37-71
Number of pages35
JournalThe African Archaeological Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1984
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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