Ancient African prehistory

The Palaeolithic of Africa

The ARCAN laboratory is developing research on the Palaeolithic in Africa, particularly on the lithic industries which are the best-preserved remains of hominin activity in time. The continent has the longest archaeological record in the world of the first material expressions of the human lineage, from more than 3 million years ago to the emergence of the first productive societies during the Holocene.

The lines of research developed in the ARCAN laboratory focus on the evolution of technical and cognitive behaviors over time and the diversity of these behaviors according to the continent's highly contrasting bio-geographical zones. Fieldwork, which is fundamental for providing new data, forms an important part of the activities carried out by the laboratory.


The Palaeolithic in West Africa

The main activity of the ARCAN laboratory on the Palaeolithic is currently developed within the framework of the international and multidisciplinary research program "Human Settlement and Paleoenvironment in West Africa - Falémé Project”, directed from 2012 to 2015, at the University of Geneva, by Eric Huysecom, from 2015 to 2022 by Eric Huysecom and Anne Mayor, and since 2022 by Anne Mayor and Katja Douze. This project aims at building a techno-cultural history of the settlement of the Falémé valley, in eastern Senegal, from the Paleolithic to the present day. It has led to the discovery of several Early Stone Age, Middle Stone Age and Later Stone Age sites, which are currently being excavated and studied, providing new data on the Palaeolithic of West Africa. This project includes nearly three months of archaeological fieldwork in Senegal. It is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss-Liechtenstein Foundation for Archaeological Research Abroad (SLSA).



Other projects on the Palaeolithic

The ARCAN laboratory is developing research areas within the framework of other research projects on the Palaeolithic: in the Horn of Africa, in particular in Djibouti, in the project "First Production Societies in the Horn of Africa (PSPCA)", directed by Jessie Cauliez (CNRS Research Fellow, UMR 5608 TRACES, Toulouse) , and in South Africa, in the project "The MileStone Age: chronology and technology in the Late Pleistocene in Southern Africa", directed by Chantal Tribolo (CNRS Research Fellow, UMR 6034 Archeosciences-Bordeaux) and Guillaume Porraz (CNRS Research Fellow, UMR 7269 LAMPEA)

The laboratory also collaborates in various study groups aiming at the methodological development of research on lithic technology, having an impact on the practice of the discipline in Africa but also on a wider scale.



Teaching on the Palaeolithic of Africa is one of the strengths of the ARCAN laboratory, with training focused on the emergence and evolution of technical behaviors, from the definition of tools in primates to the last industries of societies whose economy is dominantly based on stone tools. This training considers the history of research as well as the latest discoveries and the state of current research, which is unceasingly supplying new data.