In the final Pleistocene and early Holocene Periods around 10,000 years ago, the Sahara was believed to be a highly favorable environment for hunters, gatherers and pastoralists. Freshwater lakes existed between the dunes in what is now the Tenere region, Lake Chad was eight times its current size, the highlands supported Mediterranean forest trees, and a large fauna of animals flourished. The slow drying out process of the Sahara, began 7,000 years ago and ended 4500 years ago resulting in the barren conditions that exist to this day. As we progress from the time from the end of the Pleistocene to the end of the Paleolithic Period, we see Man relying more on meat from raised animals as opposed to hunted animals.
The earliest blade industry in North Africa is classified as the ORANIAN or also known as the IBERO-MAURUSIAN TRADITION. This tradition begins in the region around 12,000 years ago and is eventually superseded by another blade tradition called the CAPSIAN TRADITION. The Capsian industry runs simultaneously with the Oranian beginning 11,000 years ago (9,000 years ago in the Northwest region). This later tradition is responsible for the influence of the Oranian industry and eventually succeeds it as we near the end of the Paleolithic Period.
Most notable during the era of these two traditions is the proliferation of various blades and bladelets ushering in MICROLITHIC technology. Microliths are tiny flake blade tools and segments of blades that are used as they are or set in composite tools of wood or bone for use as barbs or to make saws. It is likely that the presence of abundant small game and fish necessitated the manufacture of these smaller projectile points at a time when the Sahara was cooler and still teeming with life, thousands of years ago. It is also highly likely that these artifacts served as weapons against other humans. From a slightly earlier time period, a late Pleistocene graveyard was discovered at Jebel Sahaba, north of Wadi Halfa in Sudanese Nubia. These burials date from 14,000 to 12,000 years ago. Many people were buried there that had fallen victim to violent deaths with the bodies having been killed by microlithic weapons and small arrowhead projectiles. One man had 110 artifacts associated with his skeleton which had entered his body as stone barbs and points of projectiles. Two of the projectiles were still embedded in his skull.
The blades and projectile points of the ORANIAN / CAPSIAN TRADITION represent some of the most delicately flaked and beautifully executed smaller stone tools of primitive man. By this time, the flaking methods utilize small punches for extreme control in the removal of material and shape of the blade being made. Some points were so perfectly executed that they were not used at all but served as items of prestige by their owner and are sometimes found in association with burials. These finest points and blades from this period rival any stone implement ever made by primitive man and were sometimes manufactured out of the most stunning gem-grade material such as fine translucent chalcedony and agate as well as transparent crystalline quartz. By this late age of lithic tool manufacture, stone implements have undergone man's development by both trial-and-error and cognitive thinking spanning an overall time exceeding one million years.