Public presentation in Tunisia of the oldest urus skull ever found and new excavation campaigns in Oued Sarrat

PHOTOS – castellano – català

Recently in the Pleistocene site of Oued Sarrat (Tunisia), with an approximately age of 700,000 years, it has been developed a new exploration and excavation campaign under the direction of Professor Narjess Karoui-Yaakoub, of the Cartage University, and the ICREA (Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats) research Professor, assigned to IPHES (Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social), Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro. Coinciding with the end of this campaign a public presentation was conducted, in the City of Sciences of Tunis (Cité des Sciences), of the site and the oldest urus skull finding (primitive bull and the actual ancestor) about 700,000 years old, as was announced a few months ago in the Quaternary Science Reviews journal.

“In this campaign it was carried out a small systematic excavation and continued the survey work and the recording of new fossils along the Sarrat River basin, with a continuous outcrop over 5 km”, says Bienvenido Martínez-Navarro. Work has been done in the lower swampy black levels, corresponding to the base of the Middle Pleistocene (about 700,000 years old), mainly composed by clays very hard to erode, through which the river runs intensely forming large meanders, raising and revealing every year a very good fossil record of large mammals, including: bulls (Bos primigenius), horses (Equus sp.) rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), gazelles (Gazella sp.) orjackals (Canis sp.), as well as a great amount of microvertebrates (micromammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish), associated with the presence of the Acheulean type lithic industry, as in the Upper Pleistocene gray-brown fluvial terraces, overlapping the black basal levels, where an abundant fauna of large mammals also dominated by the presence of bulls (Bos primigenius), gazelles (Gazella sp.), elephant remains, and large carnivores such as lions and large size (Panthera leo) associated with the Aterian type lithic industry, dated between 30,000 and 70,000 years, chronologically equivalent to the European Middle Palaeolithic (Mousterian).

Also, a small excavation was carried out at the lower levels, finding Bos primigenius and more acheulean industries. To this we must add that during the survey, numerous remains of other large mammals were found from both, the Middle Pleistocene and the upper levels.

Is notable the presence of a complete camel metatarsal discovered in the levels of the Late Pleistocene, first record of this species in the site. It is also the first time that fossil wood residues were found in the lower black levels.

“These data will expand the paleobiological information of the site and promote the better understanding of the environment in which the acheulean hunters, 700,000 years ago, and aterian industry between the 30,000 and 70,000 years were developing in northern Africa” says Martínez-Navarro.

On the other hand, it was presented in a crowded public event organized at the Cité des Sciences of Tunis, the oldest bull skull ever found (Bos primigenius). It was in the lower level of Oued Sarrat, dated at 700,000 years. To the event assisted: numerous tunisian academic authorities and scientists from the universities of Carthage, Tunis and Sfax, as from the National Office of Mines (all involved institutions in the research), several parliamentarians from Kef, province where the deposit of Oued Sarrat is located, and the Ambassador of Spain in Tunisia, Juan López-Dóriga.

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