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An archaeological study focusing on dung will cast some light on the relations between humans, animals and the environment

An archaeological study focusing on dung will cast some light on the relations between humans, animals and the environment

The project, to be conducted by Shira Gur-Arieh, Marie Curie Research fellow with the Department of Humanities, supervised by Marco Madella, ICREA-UPF research professor and member of the CaSEs research group, will analyse the use of dung in the construction of housing during the early Neolithic.

19.11.2018

 

The transition from foraging to agriculture, some 12,000 years ago, is marked by planting and the domestication of animals, and by the use of animal by-products such as milk, wool, and dung. Dung is a highly valuable material that can be used as a fertilizer, as fuel and also for building. However, although ethnographic evidence shows that its use in building is common in many societies, it has been little studied.

Now, “MapDung: Dung as Construction Material During the Emergence of Animal Domestication: A Multi-Proxy Approach”, a research project coordinated by UPF carried out in collaboration with scholars from Germany, Turkey, Israel and Jordan, will analyse the use of manure and in the construction of housing and facilities during the early Neolithic.

The MapDung project will analyse the use of dung in the construction of housing and facilities during the early Neolithic.

The project will be conducted over the next two years by Shira Gur-Arieh, a researcher at the Department of Humanities, who joined UPF with a European Commission 2018 Marie Curie grant. She will be supervised by Marco Madella, ICREA-UPF research professor, both members of the Culture and Socio-Ecological Dynamics (CaSEs) research group.

“Studying the human exploitation of dung in general and its use as a building material in particular facilitates the understanding of the relations between humans and animals, subsistence practices, human technology and human impact on the environment”, asserts Marco Madella.

According to the CaSEs researcher, this research project will provide information on the management of resources in accordance with human needs and environmental conditions. “Why, for example, is dung given priority use for construction rather than as fuel? This research will add an innovative point of view on human adaptation strategies”.

The archaeological study will take place in three different parts of the Middle East

The MapDung project will focus on the early Neolithic period (preceramic periods A, B, and C), through archaeological studies in three sites in the Middle East, in the central area where early animal domestication took place.

First, Çatalhöyük, on a multilayer mound located in Central Anatolia; second, the Sahara, in a small area of Wadi Hasa (Jordan), and finally, in Motza, a rural enclave located on the western edge of Jerusalem, in the hills of Judea.

“The diversity of these three locations will allow comparing the depositional and post-depositional processes of the remains of dung in three different climatic regimes, and will also provide a broader, temporal and regional view on the use of dung during the Neolithic, one of the most critical transitions in the history of mankind”, explains Marco Madella.

The study, which will develop new work techniques and strategies, will also serve to provide information on socio-cultural practices. “Ethnographic studies show that in most current societies, activities related to the use of dung are almost exclusively performed by women. The research will help us to analyse this aspect related to gender division of labour”, concludes Marco Madella.

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