Site formation processes in caves: the Holocene sediments of the Haua Fteah, Cyrenaica, Libya

Chris Hunt*, John Davison, Robyn Inglis, Lucy Farr, Tim Reynolds, David Simpson, Hwedi el-Rishi, Graeme Barker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Caves have yielded some of the most globally important archaeological sequences, but often their interpretation has suffered from assumptions about cave sedimentary processes. Caves contain distinctive sedimentary environments: this has major implications for the understanding of contained archaeological materials. This paper describes and analyses the Holocene sediments in the Haua Fteah, a sequence regarded as essentially continuous by the original excavator. 50 years after it was first excavated, the Haua's Epipalaeolithic to post-Classical chronological range and rich finds make it still the key Holocene archaeological site in North Africa. The reassessment shows, however, that the sequence is strongly discontinuous and this has major implications for the reinterpretation of the site, as the highly-resolved archaeological record is thus likely to reflect a series of brief occupations, rather than continuous human activity. As with many caves, the sedimentary record in the Haua Fteah is an extremely sensitive indicator of environments and processes in the wider landscape. Secure understanding of sedimentary process, from analysis of the highly individual records found in caves, is essential for full understanding of their contained archaeology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1600-1611
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cave archaeology
  • Facies analysis
  • Holocene
  • Libya
  • North Africa
  • Radiocarbon dating


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