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Discovery of Africa’s oldest ceramic in eastern Mali

art-and-culture Updated: Jul 11, 2009 17:43 IST

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Archaeologists from Geneva University in Switzerland have discovered what they claim is Africa’s oldest ceramic, dated at around 9,400BC, in eastern Mali.

“It’s a tiny, ornate fragment that was made with great skill and the use of fire,” said ethno-archaeologist Anne Mayor in Bamako, the Malian capital.

Mayor is part of an eight-person Swiss team in the country, comprising five scientists from Geneva and three from Fribourg, who are working with colleagues from Mali, Germany and France.

The find was made in the area of the Dogon people, whose main territory is bisected by the Bandiagara Escarpment, a sandstone cliff up to 500m high and which stretches for about 150 km.

Swiss archaeologists have been digging in the area for 20 years.

Currently, they are concentrating in Ounjougou, “a unique location with massive potential for discoveries”, according to Mayor.

The aim of the project is to learn more about humans and the environment during the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age) Period. The first settlements in the region date from around a million years ago.