About the Project:

With the transition from a foraging to farming lifestyle and the beginning of animal domestication, dung becomes a valuable material that can be used as fertilizer, fuel, and construction material. While archaeological evidence for dung used as fuel and manure are increasing, its use for constructions has only been rarely identified, despite ethnographic accounts that the use of dung for construction is still common in many societies. Therefore, it is important to understand if its absence from the archaeological record is the result of human preference or a research/preservation bias. 

Studying human exploitation of dung in general and its use as a construction material in particular facilitates the understanding of human-animal relations, subsistence practices, human technology, and human impact on the environment. The aim of MapDung is to explore the possible early use of dung for construction as a proxy for understanding human-animal-environment relations and ecosystems. 

The specific project goals are: 

1) To develop a new multi-proxy methodology for improved identification of dung, focused on construction materials. 

2) Studying the pre-and-post depositional processes that affect archaeological dung used for construction. 

3) To provide a wider regional understanding of the utilization and importance of secondary animal products during the Early Neolithic Period and the socio-cultural aspects related to its use. 


MapDung focuses on Pre Pottery Neolithic (PPN) sites from the core area of early animal domestication-the Near East. 

1) Çatalhöyük (c. 9.4-8 ka), a multilayered PPNB mound located in Central Anatolia. 

2) Sharara is a PPNA site located at Wadi el-Hasa, Jordan. The site has been excavated since 2016 by a team from Kiel University led by Cheryl Makarewicz and Bill Finlayson. 

3) Motza is a PPNC rural site located at the western edge of Jerusalem, Israel. It has been excavated in several campaigns of the Israel Antiquities Authority led by Jacob Vardi, Sivan Mizrahi, and Hamoudi Khalaily. 

The diversity of the three sites will allow comparisons of the depositional and post-depositional processes of dung remains in three different climatic regimes and will also provide a wider regional and temporal view of dung utilization during the Neolithic Period. 


The MapDung research project is funded by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship 794823 of the European Union's Horizon 2020 Framework Programme (H2020-MSCA-IF-2017) granted to S.G-A at the CaSEs Research Group, Pompeu Fabra University.

Main Collaborators: 

Prof. Marco Madella

Dr. Carla Lancelotti (UPF)

Prof. Chris Miller

Dr. Susan Mentzer

Junior Prof. Cynthianne Spiteri (TU)

Prof. Bill Finlayson

Prof. Cheryl Makarewicz

Dr. Sarah Elliott (Sharara collaborator)

Dr. Jacob Vardi

Sivan Mizrahi

Dr. Hamoudi Khalaily (Motza collaborator)