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AGRINA - Human transitional pathways towards food production in North Africa: Technological and environmental signatures


The Project

The project AGRINA - Human transitional pathways towards food production in North Africa: Technological and environmental signatures, is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action FP7-PEOPLE-2012-IEF.

The origin of food production is one of the key themes in North African pre-/proto-history. In recent years the orthodox model, that domesticated plants and animals were introduced by maritime Neolithic colonists from the Near East, has been increasingly challenged, and a component of autonomous development independent of the Near East acknowledged. However, there remains considerable uncertainty about the nature and extent of, and interplay between, internal and external dynamics in the beginnings of food production across North Africa.

Although it is commonly accepted that domesticated plants and animals from the Near East (wheat, barley, cattle, sheep/goats) were introduced into North Africa in the Early and Middle Holocene (c. 8000-4000 cal. BC), a period of profound climatic change, when and how these migrations took place, and what form they took, remain extremely uncertain. The aim of the proposed project is to a make a significant contribution to resolving this uncertainty, especially through innovative methodologies in artefact analysis.

The project focuses on two case study areas, to investigate and compare forager-farmer interactions and processes of ‘Neolithization’ in contrasting ecosystems: arid (the Egyptian Western Desert) and Mediterranean (Gebel Akhdar). The project takes advantage of current fieldwork programmes by European teams collecting high quality palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental data essential for understanding human group activities in this period of significant climatic change. In particular, the project builds on the work of the Cyrenaican Prehistory Project, Libya, directed by Prof. Graeme Barker (McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge) and the Archaeological Mission in the Farafra Oasis, Egypt, directed by Prof. Barbara Barich (ISMEO - International Association for the Syudy of the Mediterranean and the East, Rome) and Dr. Giulio Lucarini (McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge and ISMEO, Rome).

The project investigates the chronology and locations of the first appearance of the Near Eastern domesticates in North Africa and their subsequent spread, and the cultural interactions involved in these processes, through the following methodologies: Accelerator Mass Spectrometry dating of botanical and zoological material; functional, petrographic and geochemical analyses on lithic artefacts and grinding equipments; integrated Geographical Information System (GIS) analysis.



Principal Investigator

Dr. Giulio Lucarini (University of Cambridge - ISMEO, Rome)



Prof. Barbara Barich (ISMEO, Rome)

Prof. Graeme Barker (University of Cambridge)



Dr. Huw Barton (University of Leicester)

Prof. Mohamed A. Hamdan (Cairo University)

Dr. Jacob Morales (University of the Basque Country)

Mrs. Anita Radini (University of York)

Dr. Ilaria Venir (independent researcher)



The European Commission (principal funder of the AGRINA project).

The European Research Council (funder of the Cyrenaica Prehistory Project).

The Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs (funder of the Farafra Project).

The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research (funder of the Farafra Project).


Selected publications

Barich, B.E., Lucarini, G., Hamdan, M.A & Hassan, F.A. (eds.). (2014). From Lake to Sand. The Archaeology of Farafra Oasis (Egypt). Florence: All’Insegna del Giglio.

Schörle, K. & Lucarini, G. (2014). Évolution et dynamiques d’occupation du littoral tripolitain (Libye). In: Mercuri, L., González Villaescusa, R. & Bertoncello, F. (eds.), Implantations humaines en milieu littoral méditerranéen: facteurs d’installation et processus d’appropriation de l’espace de la Préhistoire au Moyen Âge. Nice. 

Hamdan, M.A. & Lucarini, G. (2013) Holocene paleoenvironmental, paleoclimatic and geoarchaeological significance of the Sheikh El-Obeiyid area (Farafra Oasis, Egypt). Quaternary International 302: 154-68.

Lucarini, G. (2013) Was a transition to food production homogeneous along the circum-Mediterranean littoral? A perspective on the Neolithisation research from the Libyan littoral. In: Shirai, N. (ed.), Neolithisation of Northeastern Africa. Studies in Early Near Eastern Production, Subsistence, and Environment, vol. 16: 149-74. Berlin: ex oriente.

Barich, B.E., Crespi, M., Fabiani, U. & Lucarini, G. (2012) Geomatic Resources for Archaeological Survey in Desert Areas - Some Prospects from Farafra Oasis. In: Bagnall, R.S., Davoli, P. & Hope, C.A. (eds.), The Oasis Papers 6: Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference of the Dakhleh Oasis Project, 49-59. Oxford: Oxbow Books. 

Barich, B.E., Lucarini, G., Gallinaro, M. & Hamdan, M.A. (2012) Sheikh/Bir El Obeiyid: Evidence of Sedentism in the Northern Farafra Depression (Western Desert, Egypt). In: Kabaciński, J., Chłodnicki, M. & Kobusiewicz M. (eds.), Prehistory of Northeastern Africa New Ideas and Discoveries. Studies in African Archaeology 11: 255-78. Poznań: Poznań Archaeological Museum. 

Barker, G., Bennett, P., Farr, L., Hill, E., Hunt, C., Lucarini, G., Morales, J., Mutri, G., Prendergast, A., Pryor, A., Rabett, R., Reynolds, T., Spry-Marques, P. & Twati, M. (2012) The Cyrenaican Prehistory Project 2012: the Fifth Season of Investigations of the Haua Fteah Cave. Libyan Studies 43: 115-36.

Lucarini, G. (2012) Early Craftsmen of the Desert. Traces of Predynastic Lithic Technology at Farafra during the Mi-Holocene. In: Bagnall, R.S., Davoli, P. & Hope, C.A. (eds.), The Oasis Papers 6: Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference of the Dakhleh Oasis Project, 87-98. Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Lucarini, G. (2011) Il paesaggio antico di Sheikh El Obeiyid (Farafra). La playa e il villaggio tra tecnologia e aspetti simbolici. Scienze dell’Antichità. Storia, Archeologia, Antropologia, 17: 41-55. 

Barker, G., Antoniadou, A., Armitage, S., Brooks, I., Candy, I., Connell, K., Douka, K., Drake, N., Farr, L., Hill, E., Hunt, C., Inglis, R., Jones, S., Lane, C., Lucarini, G., Meneely, J., Morales, J., Mutri, G., Prendergast, A., Rabett, R. Reade, H., Reynolds, T., Russell, N., Simpson, D., Smith, B., Stimpson, C., Twati, M. & White, K. (2010) The Cyrenaican Prehistory Project 2010: the Fourth Season of Investigations of the Haua Fteah Cave and Its Landscape, and Further Results from the 2007-2009 Fieldwork. Libyan Studies 41: 63-88. 

Fabiani, U. & Lucarini, G. (2010) Spatial Research and Geomatic Resources Applied to the Archaeology of the Farafra Oasis (Western Desert, Egypt). Rivista di Scienze Preistoriche 57, 335-51.



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