Research Article

DOI :10.26650/anar.2021.24.914913   IUP :10.26650/anar.2021.24.914913    Full Text (PDF)

Multi-Proxy Approach to Archaeological Dung Research: New Evidence from Aceramic Neolithic Site of Aşıklı Höyük, Central Anatolia

Melis UzdurumGüneş Duru

Dung is one of the most important research areas of interdisciplinary studies, which can provide insights into the lives of past communities, environmental conditions, and human–animal interactions. In archaeological contexts, animal dung cannot be identified macroscopically in most cases. Hence, new methods and approaches focusing on ways to describe the micro-markers of dung have increased and diversified over the last decade. This study used a multi-proxy approach focusing on analytical methods to identify the markers of animal dung in prehistoric construction materials. Micromorphology/thin section analysis, and calcium carbonate (CaCO3), carbon (C), and nitrogen (N) analyses were carried out on mudbricks and mortar from the Aceramic Neolithic site of Aşıklı Höyük. Thin section analysis suggested that fecal spherulites are one of the most important proxies of archaeological dung. Nitrogen is the other indicator of animal dung. The results showed that the Aşıklı inhabitants did not abandon mudbricks in their architectural needs for decades and used animal dung as a temper in mudbricks and mortar. Throughout the centuries of occupation at the site, the use of animal dung as a temper changed both diachronically and spatially, particularly with the establishment of settled village life at Aşıklı Höyük. In conclusion, this study suggests that the limits of knowledge of archaeological dung can be expanded using a multi-proxy methodological approach.

DOI :10.26650/anar.2021.24.914913   IUP :10.26650/anar.2021.24.914913    Full Text (PDF)

Arkeolojik Hayvan Dışkısı Çalışmalarına Çok-Göstergeli Yaklaşım: Orta Anadolu, Akeramik Neolitik Dönem Yerleşmesi Aşıklı Höyük’ten Yeni Bulgular

Melis UzdurumGüneş Duru

Hayvan dışkısı hem çevresel koşullar hem de insan topluluklarının yaşamına ve geçmişte insan-hayvan etkileşimine dair bilgi sağlayan disiplinlerarası çalışmaların ilgi odağındaki araştırma alanlarından biridir. Arkeolojik yerleşmelerdeki hayvan dışkısı kalıntılarının makroskopik olarak tespit edilmesi çoğu zaman mümkün değildir. Bu nedenle özellikle son yıllarda dışkının mikro göstergelerine ulaşabilmenin yollarına odaklanan araştırmalar artmış, çeşitlenmiştir. Çalışmamız çok-göstergeli yaklaşım (multi-proxy approach) çerçevesinde yapı malzemelerindeki hayvan dışkısının izlerini belirlemenin analitik yollarına odaklanmaktadır. Bu bağlamda Akeramik Neolitik Dönem yerleşmesi Aşıklı Höyük’teki kerpiç ve harçlar üzerinde ince kesit analizleri, kalsiyum karbonat (CaCO3), karbon (C) ve azot (N) analizleri gerçekleştirilmiştir. Mikromorfoloji/ince kesit analizleri sözü edilen göstergelerden birinin dışkı sferülitleri olduğunu ortaya koymuştur. Hayvan dışkısının göstergelerinden bir diğerinin ise azot olduğu anlaşılmıştır. Böylelikle ulaştığımız sonuçlardan biri iskan boyunca kerpiç yapı geleneğini hiç terk etmemiş bir topluluk olan Aşıklılıların kerpiç ve harçlarında katkı malzemesi olarak hayvan dışkısı kullandığı; diğeri bu kullanımın yerleşik köy yaşamının kurulduğu süreçte hem zamansal değişime, hem de mekansal çeşitliliğe sahne olduğudur. Buradan çıkarımla çalışmamız arkeolojik hayvan dışkısına dair bilgimizin sınırlarını çokgöstergeli yaklaşım ve yöntemlerle genişletebileceğimizi ortaya koymaktadır.


People living in various geographies of the world, especially in rural areas, use animal dung for manuring, fuel, and lighting. Dung is known to have a tempering and binding effect in construction materials such as mudbrick and is still a preferred material in building construction. Archaeological studies and analyses on dung have the potential to yield data on past livestock practices including foddering, and penning, as well as its use as fuel. The study of archaeological dung, thus, provides insights into past cooking activities and food production, production technologies of construction materials and space use, animal movements, and the management and domestication of animals. From a methodological point of view, macro-archaeological analyses often prove to be insufficient to identify dung remains, thus requiring the application of micro-scale analyses to identify dung markers and remains in soils and sediments. In recent years, new microarchaeological methods have been developed in this research area and high-resolution analyses are applied.

In this study, the use of animal dung as a temper in the production of construction materials at Aşıklı Höyük (8350-7300 cal BCE, Volcanic Cappadocia) is studied through microarchaeological methodologies, including thin section analyses and calcium carbonate (CaCO3), carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) analyses. This study aims to identify animal dung in mudbricks and mortars at the site using a combination of observable analyses (micromorphology/thin section analysis) and quantitative analyses (calcium carbonate, carbon, and nitrogen) and to identify the proxies of archaeological dung according to the analytical results obtained. Thus, we aim to contribute to current studies on prehistoric dung and to the development of new methods and approaches in determining markers of archaeological dung in archaeological contexts.

Observable and quantitative analyses reveal certain markers to identify dung in mudbricks and mortars at Aşıklı Höyük. These proxies are fecal spherulites and chemical elements. Spherulites are the direct evidence of dung and therefore constitute the first micro-data group of this study. Fecal spherulites identified under the microscope with thin section analysis and their micro-contextual distribution suggest the extensive use of dung as temper in mortars. We have also observed some diachronic changes in dung use. The partial increase of dung temper in mortars in early-8th millennium BCE contexts at the site corresponds with the expansion of penning areas within the settlement. In contrast, there is a distinct lack of fecal spherulites in mudbricks and mortars during the mid-8th millennium BCE, when the on-site penning areas disappeared, and the settlement was divided into two main functional areas (the dwelling area and the special purpose buildings area).

The decrease in the percentage of organic carbon, carbon, nitrogen, and calcium carbonate in mudbricks and mortars during the mid-8th millennium BCE is coherent with the thin section results. On the other hand, the fact that the percentage of organic carbon and nitrogen in mudbricks is relatively higher in the special purpose buildings area (SPBA), and also the presence of fecal spherulites in one of the thin section samples from this area indicates that dung may have been used as temper in this part of the settlement. However, due to the limited number of samples and the lack of a statistically significant difference in the percentages of organic carbon and nitrogen between the dwelling area and the SPBA, this hypothesis should be further tested with thin section analysis. It is important to increase the number of micromorphology samples from the SPBA to better understand the settlement strategies and architectural choices of the community.

The main pitfall we encountered in thin section analysis was related to the limitations in the number and size of the samples. The data obtained from thin section analysis was cross-checked with quantitative micro-analyses. Nitrogen element analysis confirms the thin section results. Thus, the identification of dung in the thin sections from mudbricks and mortars that we were not able to sample extensively was further supplemented with elemental analyses in a diachronic and spatial scale. This approach provides certain advantages, especially considering the lack of an archaeological thin section laboratory in Turkey, and the financial costs and bureaucratic processes of transferring the samples to laboratories abroad. On the other hand, it should not be overlooked that archaeological micromorphology is one of the most effective methods to identify fecal spherulites and is complementary to elemental analysis. In this sense, the importance of archaeological dung studies with multiproxy approaches that bring together a wide variety of micro-scale analyses within the same research framework comes to the fore.  

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Uzdurum, M., & Duru, G. (2021). Multi-Proxy Approach to Archaeological Dung Research: New Evidence from Aceramic Neolithic Site of Aşıklı Höyük, Central Anatolia. Anatolian Research, 0(24), 33-66.


Uzdurum M, Duru G. Multi-Proxy Approach to Archaeological Dung Research: New Evidence from Aceramic Neolithic Site of Aşıklı Höyük, Central Anatolia. Anatolian Research. 2021;0(24):33-66.


Uzdurum, M.; Duru, G. Multi-Proxy Approach to Archaeological Dung Research: New Evidence from Aceramic Neolithic Site of Aşıklı Höyük, Central Anatolia. Anatolian Research, [Publisher Location], v. 0, n. 24, p. 33-66, 2021.

Chicago: Author-Date Style

Uzdurum, Melis, and Güneş Duru. 2021. “Multi-Proxy Approach to Archaeological Dung Research: New Evidence from Aceramic Neolithic Site of Aşıklı Höyük, Central Anatolia.” Anatolian Research 0, no. 24: 33-66.

Chicago: Humanities Style

Uzdurum, Melis, and Güneş Duru. Multi-Proxy Approach to Archaeological Dung Research: New Evidence from Aceramic Neolithic Site of Aşıklı Höyük, Central Anatolia.” Anatolian Research 0, no. 24 (Dec. 2021): 33-66.

Harvard: Australian Style

Uzdurum, M & Duru, G 2021, 'Multi-Proxy Approach to Archaeological Dung Research: New Evidence from Aceramic Neolithic Site of Aşıklı Höyük, Central Anatolia', Anatolian Research, vol. 0, no. 24, pp. 33-66, viewed 7 Dec. 2021,

Harvard: Author-Date Style

Uzdurum, M. and Duru, G. (2021) ‘Multi-Proxy Approach to Archaeological Dung Research: New Evidence from Aceramic Neolithic Site of Aşıklı Höyük, Central Anatolia’, Anatolian Research, 0(24), pp. 33-66. (7 Dec. 2021).


Uzdurum, Melis, and Güneş Duru. Multi-Proxy Approach to Archaeological Dung Research: New Evidence from Aceramic Neolithic Site of Aşıklı Höyük, Central Anatolia.” Anatolian Research, vol. 0, no. 24, 2021, pp. 33-66. [Database Container],


Uzdurum M, Duru G. Multi-Proxy Approach to Archaeological Dung Research: New Evidence from Aceramic Neolithic Site of Aşıklı Höyük, Central Anatolia. Anatolian Research [Internet]. 7 Dec. 2021 [cited 7 Dec. 2021];0(24):33-66. Available from: doi: 10.26650/anar.2021.24.914913


Uzdurum, Melis - Duru, Güneş. Multi-Proxy Approach to Archaeological Dung Research: New Evidence from Aceramic Neolithic Site of Aşıklı Höyük, Central Anatolia”. Anatolian Research 0/24 (Dec. 2021): 33-66.


Published Online16.09.2021


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