The Palaeolithic of Africa is characterized by a variety of stone industries, some of which are purely local, while others are similar to or practically identical with certain of the industries of Europe. Geological investigation, which has only recently been undertaken on an adequate basis, indicates that owing to fluctuations in rainfall the Pleistocene period throughout most of Africa can perhaps be divided into a succession of pluvial and interpluvial periods, which it is hoped may eventually be correlated in some way with the glacial and interglacial periods of Europe. The succession of cultures is well established for certain
areas, but not yet for the continent as a whole.
Heavily patinated hand-axes of definitely Chellean and Acheulean types together with an early fauna have been found, usually without stratigraphy, in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and to the south in the Sahara region, which was apparently once less arid than now. A so-called Mousterian industry (accompanied by a later fauna) is also represented, and excavations show an evolution from Levalloisean types, without typical Mousterian, to a special development known as the Aterian industry, characterized by small, tanged leaf-shaped points, delicately trimmed all over both faces. This was succeeded by two contemporary cultures, the early. Capsian and the Oranian (IberoMaurusian), which were Upper Palaeolithic in date and marked by blades, gravers, and microlithic forms, the earliest phases of which bear a fundamental though distant relationship to the early Aurignacian of Europe.
The presence of Palaeolithic Man is shown by discoveries of the following succession of industries, all in situ, in the terraces of the Nile Valley: Chellean, a primitive Acheulean and an Egyptian form of the Clactonian, in the 100-foot terrace (no human implements were found in the 150-foot terrace); developed Acheulean in the So-foot terrace; Levalloisean (first reported as Early Mousterian) in the 30foot terrace; and developed Levalloisean (reported as Egyptian Mousterian) in the 15- to 10-foot terrace. These were followed, in deposits of later age, by an Egyptian version of the Aterian and a local industry, the Sebilian.
According to Leakey, who has done the most work in this area, there is an early series of industries in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika, which apparently evolved from simple pebbles, roughly chipped to an edge on one side (Kafuan industry), through pebbles chipped to an edge on both sides (Oldowan industry) and through other intermediate forms to the true hand-axe types (Chellean and Acheulean industries). In higher geological horizons, and thought to be partly contemporary with one another, are found two series of industries, Aurignacian and a sparsely represented Levalloisean (followed by the Stillbay) both with many stages. Leakey assigns the Kafuan to the First Pluvial period of East Africa (Lower Pleistocene), the Chellean and Acheulean to the Second or Kamasian Pluvial period (Middle Pleistocene), and the Aurignacian and Levalloisean-Stillbay to the Third or Gamblian Pluvial period (Upper Pleistocene).
Here the Stellenbosch culture, containing Chellean and Acheulean types (hand-axes and cleavers and Victoria West cores), was followed, stratigraphically, by the Fauresmith culture (hand-axes and also flakes with faceted striking-platform, suggesting Levalloisean influence), which together form the so-called Older Stone Age. The Middle Stone Age was marked by a series of more or less contemporary flake industries (Mossel-bay, Glen Grey Falls, Howieson’s Poort, Bambata Cave, Stillbay, etc.), suggesting by the shapes and technique of their implements a combination of Levalloisean and Aurignacian influences, together with pressure-flaking in one case (Stillbay).
Occasional finds of implements similar to those of some of the industries already described have’ been reported from Nigeria, the Sudan, Abyssinia, Somaliland, the Congo region, and northern Rhodesia.