The Domestication of Sheep: A Geoarchaeological Perspective from Central Anatolia

Research Grant to Susan M. Mentzer, funded by the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD; German Academic Exchange Service), October 2012 through July 2013.

This project employed a combination of geoarchaeological analytical techniques (archaeological micromorphology, geochemistry and mineralogy) to document continuity and change in the production of dung layers, stabling deposits, and other materials containing dung at the Aceramic Neolithic site of Asıklı Höyük. Dating to 9.5-8 ka before present (BP), Asıklı Höyük is the earliest village site in the Central Anatolian Plateau. Prior to this study, preliminary analyses of features present in three main architectural phases indicated that faunal changes suggestive of the early phases of sheep domestication were preceded by the appearance of deposits of ruminant dung. The DAAD-funded research focused on further identification of dung-bearing deposits, understanding their relationship to other archaeological features, and integrating the results with ongoing faunal studies.

Sampling for micromorphology at the site of Asıklı Höyük. Guneş Duru (project co-director, with Mihriban Özbaşaran), Susan Mentzer, and Mary Stiner collect block samples from middens and open spaces exposed in a 10+ meter profile. Photograph credit: Özgür Toprak.

Susan Mentzer (project PI) collects a micromorphology sample from a Neolithic wall exposed in profile. Mentzer documented the presence of reworked dung in building materials such as mortar. Photograph credit: Özgür Toprak.

An example of a series of oriented block samples and loose sediment sampling localities. The oriented blocks were impregnated with polyester resin and processed into petrographic thin sections for micromorphological analysis. Loose samples were analyzed using a variety of techniques, including measurements of stable isotope ratios and soluble salts, grain mounts, and FTIR.

An example of a petrographic thin section that was produced from a resin-impregnated, oriented block of midden sediment from Asıklı Höyük (sample collection pictured above). These types of samples were analyzed using microscopes housed in the laboratory of the Geoarchaeology Working Group. Additional microscopic analyses, including cathodoluminescence microscopy, μ-XRF and μ-FTIR are ongoing. Here, the midden contains many cm-scale layers of anthropogenic debris, as well as layers of dung. Sample dimensions: 5 x 7 cm.

Additional information about the Asıklı Höyük excavations:

Additional funding sources:

Selected publications and presentations that stemmed from this work:

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