Deposit Velocity and Its Significance

By George Gravy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
CULTURE HISTORY PRIOR TO EUROPEAN INTERVENTION

FOR THE POPULATIONS and civilizations that reached it, Morocco was a cul-de-sac. Every movement came up against the Atlantic barrier and was retarded by the hostile environment of the Sahara. During the Pleistocene epoch and, indeed, during the first millennia of Recent geologic time, Morocco was a redoubt in which outmoded ways of life perfected themselves in isolation. The descendants of the Neolithic farmers remained dependent on stone tools three thousand years after the Egyptians, at the other end of the Mediterranean, had begun to use metal. Basically, the Stone Age cultures still persist, in spite of Phoenician, Roman, Arab, and European influence.

The historic accounts of the Canary Islands are of special interest. When the Norman and Spanish conquerors reached the Canaries a few generations before the discovery of America, the islanders spoke a Berber dialect and still retained their Neolithic culture. They used stone tools, and fashioned implements from wood, horn, and shell. They produced crude and underfired pottery in the Neolithic style, and their textiles were plaited matting and basketry. Their clothing was of cured goatskin, and their houses were made of stone, pine timbers, and earth. They raised pigs, dogs, sheep, and goats, and grew barley and wheat. They knew how to preserve meat by drying and milk by making cheese. Add metal, weaving, and the crops and animals introduced from southwestern Asia and the Americas, and this outline of material culture is little different from that of an isolated Moroccan village of today.1


THE PROBLEM OF CLIMATIC CHANGE

A mass of circumstantial evidence suggests that Barbary has become drier since the time of the Roman occupation. The impressive ruins of Thamugadi (Timgad) and the great amphitheater of Thysdrus (el-Jem) now stand on desolate plains. The ancient seaports of Leptis Magna and Sabratha were found buried under an immense drift of sand. Mosaics and historical records tell of the presence in Roman Africa of elephants, lions, and other wild animals now confined to the tropical zone. Further examples of change presumed to be a result of desiccation could be cited, but these suffice to illustrate the type of evidence that impresses the traveler.

It cannot be denied that the landscape of northern Africa has changed since classical time, but the thesis of a climatic explanation of this change is difficult to defend. Most of the evident deterioration can be traced to neglect or destruction by man. Aqueducts, dams, and cisterns made possible the building of the now dead cities. With the collapse of the Pax Romana, marginal land dependent on irrigation went out of cultivation. Burning, cutting, and overgrazing

____________________
1
Leonardo Torriani, Die kanarischen Inseln und ihre Urbewohner; trans. from the MS of 1590 by D. J. Wölfel ( Leipzig: K. F. Koehler, 1940), Vol. VI of Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der Geographie und Völkerkunde. C. S. Coon, in Caravan: The Story of the Middle East ( New York: Henry Holt, 1951), pp. 36-40, calls attention to the Canary Islanders as "Berbers" unaffected by foreign influence.

-32-

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Deposit Velocity and Its Significance
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents *
  • Chapter I - INTRODUCTION: THE "NORTHERN ZONE" 1
  • Chapter II - ENVIRONMENT 12
  • Chapter III - CULTURE HISTORY PRIOR TO EUROPEAN INTERVENTION 32
  • Chapter IV - EUROPEAN INTERVENTION 55
  • Chapter V - SETTLEMENT MORPHOLOGY 65
  • Chapter VI - LIVELIHOOD 78
  • Chapter VII - EFFECTS OF SETTLEMENT ON THE LAND 95
  • Chapter VIII - SUMMARY 117
  • Appendix - VARIANT SPELLINGS OF PLACE AND LINEAGE NAMES 121
  • PLATES 123
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