Type:  Tenerean Disk

Location: Ténéré, Niger



MoST ID: 1153

Pedestal Link: https://une.pedestal3d.com/r/d55AasMurp

Model Author:  Emma Watt

This round biface is from the Ténéré region of the Sahara Desert, Niger.  These bifaces, often made from a distinctive green silicified volcanic ash called ‘felsite’, are referred to as Tenerean disks by archaeologists working in the region.  They are found on Tenerean period sites, ca. 4500-8200 BP, and were probably used as knives.

One face of the Teneran disk in this model is expertly thinned by flat, invasive percussion flaking, but flaking on the opposite face resulted in a series of step and hinge terminations and a raised island of flake scars.  About half disk’s perimeter was re-flaked in the recent past, creating fresh, steep, non-invasive scars intruding into mechanically-weathered flake scars.  This may have been done by a recent collector to enhance the disk’s shape.

People began moving into the Sahara Desert to harvest animals attracted to the lakes and grasslands forming there in the African Humid Period, ca. 5000-14,500 BP.   Tenerean people were cattle pastoralists but supplemented their diet with resources from the lakeside environment that existed there at the time.  Famous Tenerean period site complexes include Adrar Bous and the recently-excavated cemetery at Gobero.  Tenerean disks are part of a technology at Gobero that included retouched flakes of various types, backed microliths, and a variety of triangular, ovate, tanged, and hollow-based bifacial arrowheads made by pressure flaking.  Some of these arrowheads are tiny, measuring less than 15 mm long.

Extensive green felsite quarries for Tenerean disks were discovered recently at Ijiwa near the Alallaka wadi on the edge of the Aÿr Mountains, 160 km from Gobero.  Stone tools made at this source, and probably other undiscovered sources of felsite in the Aÿr Mountains, was transported long distances.  One felsite Tenerian disk was discovered in the lakebed near Gobero with a flat side and notches at either end, prompting archaeologists to speculate that Tenerean disks were hafted in split wooden handles.  Most Tenerean disks lack this modification however.  Some Tenerean discs were made by exceptionally skilled bifacial percussion flaking, resulting in a very thin tool with a sharp edge around the entire circumference.  This, combined with the striking green colour of the felsite, suggests that some Tenerean disks were prestige items made by specialist flintknappers at or near the felsite quarries.