Of Dung and Humans: The Archaeology of Livestock Dung

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

Dung is a key interdisciplinary area of research as it provides valuable information on a wide range of environmental and ecological issues and socio-economic and cultural aspects of human life. Livestock dung is commonly found in many settlements, especially after the domestication of herd animals. However, dung materials are regularly overlooked or missed using conventional excavation procedures, despite their worldwide economic importance as suppliers of fertilizer, fuel and building material.

This session showcases interdisciplinary approaches to debates surrounding the identification and interpretation of dung remains in archaeological contexts through multi-proxy analytical techniques in bioarchaeology, geoarchaeology and biochemistry. Additionally, the use of ethnography and experimental archaeology provide robust comparative data and models on factors affecting its composition, preservation and taphonomy, as well as the environmental, management and cultural practices influencing these. By bringing together participants working in a variety of geographic and temporal foci and from different fields of research, this session will review the state-of-the-art identification methods and approaches to further our understanding of archaeological livestock dung, and to identify avenues for potential future growth/developments in this key research area.

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  • Documents (8)

  • Ding Dung: Animal Enclosures, Digested Bones and, Where was the Livestock in the Archaeological Site? Evidences from Experimentation and Zooarchaeology from Late Prehistory in the Western Mediterranean (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Silvia Valenzuela-Lamas. Ariadna Nieto-Espinet.

    One of the most intriguing questions in many archaeological sites is to elucidate where the livestock was kept, and which and how many animals were herded. This is particularly compelling in Late Prehistory, when many sites were heavily fortified, and all the space intramuros seemed to be occupied by domestic buildings. Some disciplines, such as micromorphology and palynology, help to answer some of these questions. In this paper, we will provide a perspective from zooarchaeology, which is one...

  • Dung Management in Medieval and Post-Medieval Brussels (Belgium) (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Luc Vrydaghs. Cristiano Nicosia. Yannick Devos. Alvise Vianello. Christine Pümpin.

    During archaeological excavations in the center of Brussels (Belgium), often stratigraphic units containing dung – either omnivore-carnivore, including human, or herbivore – have been encountered. A multidisciplinary approach, comprising soil micromorphology, phytolith analysis and parasitology on soil thin sections, chemical analyses, including GC-MS and phosphorus measurements, was adopted to identify and characterize dung remains. In some cases dung was observed as part of the manure added to...

  • Dung Use Before Animal Domestication in Southwest Asia: Evidence from Early Natufian Shubayqa 1 (Northeastern Jordan) (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Amaia Arranz Otaegui. Ana Polo-Díaz. Tobias Richter.

    In southwest Asia the use of dung as fuel has so far only been attested at agricultural sites, which relied on the exploitation of domesticated plants and animals. In this presentation we report the first evidence for dung use by hunter-gatherers in southwest Asia 15,000 years ago. Charred dung remains were found inside two stone-made hearth structures at the late Epipalaeolithic Natufian site Shubayqa 1. This evidence suggests that dung was recurrently gathered and used as fuel. The macro- and...

  • Finding Dung on Prehistoric and Historic Landscapes: Sporormiella in the Pollen Record (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only R. A. Varney. Linda Scott Cummings.

    Dung fungal spores (Sporormiella) live on grazing animal dung and comprise part of the pollen record in landscape studies. Coprophilous fungi such as Sporormiella rely on a cyclic process involving herbivore ingestion of spores with foliage; germination of spores following passage through the gut; and mycelial growth within, and eventual sporulation on the surface of drying dung. Often their recovery in stratigraphic profiles is interpreted to represent megafaunal presence, thus enhancing...

  • Human-Animal Iteractions in Early Sedentary Societies in the Near East and Northern Africa: The MICROARCHAEODUNG Project (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Marta Portillo. Wendy Matthews.

    The MICROARCHAEODUNG project aims to develop, standardize and integrate much-needed holistic interdisciplinary sampling protocols and analytical strategies for multi-proxy studies of livestock dung as an important archaeological material that is routinely overlooked or missed using conventional excavation procedures. MICROARCHAEODUNG integrates state-of-the-art analytical techniques in geoarchaeology, bioarchaeology and biochemistry to enable a robust identification and interpretation of ancient...

  • Microstratigraphic Investigation of Nomadic Pastoral Campsites in Eastern Mongolia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Natalia Eguez. Carolina Mallol. Cheryl Makarewicz.

    Since the origins of domestication, pastoral societies have been an exceptional example of adaptation and resilience. In recent years, studies focusing on herbivore faecal remains have shown the importance of these remains and their implication for identifying socio-economic activities. Here we present a multi-proxy examination of these deposits for an accurate identification of herds penning. We use micromorphology of soil sediments and stable isotopes analysis combined with archaeology and...

  • A New Multi-Scalar, Multi-Methodology for the Detection, Identification and Analysis of Ancient Animal Dung (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Sarah Elliott. Wendy Matthews.

    Animal domestication has traditionally been investigated through archaeozoological approaches which can be problematic and may not detect the earliest stages in this important transformation (Zeder 2006). The study of dung provides an alternative line of evidence for the investigation of: animal presence and proximity, increased animal management, domestication and sedentism, potential secondary product use, animal diet and environment. To identify and analyse faecal material there is still the...

  • The Use of Dung in Northern Morocco: Examples from Mountain Communities (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Leonor Pena-Chocarro. Guillem Pérez Jordà.

    This presentation focuses on the various examples collected from northern Morocco during ethnographic fieldwork on the use of dung. Apart from the most known use of dung as fuel, traditional communities in the Moroccan Rif used dung for other purposes such as flooring, tempering, manuring, making containers for storage, etc. This paper will discuss the various uses of this important material and results will be compared to other examples from other Mediterranean areas.