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Potentials and limitations for the identification of outdoor dung plasters in humid tropical environment: a geo-ethnoarchaeological case study from South India

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dc.contributor.author Gur-Arieh, Shira
dc.contributor.author Madella, Marco
dc.contributor.author Lavi, Noa
dc.contributor.author Friesem, David E.
dc.date.accessioned 2023-01-31T07:04:35Z
dc.date.available 2023-01-31T07:04:35Z
dc.date.issued 2019
dc.identifier.citation Gur-Arieh S, Madella M, Lavi N, Friesem DE. Potentials and limitations for the identification of outdoor dung plasters in humid tropical environment: a geo-ethnoarchaeological case study from South India. Archaeol Anthropol Sci. 2019 Jun 01;11(6):2683-98. DOI: 10.1007/s12520-018-0682-y
dc.identifier.issn 1866-9557
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10230/55479
dc.description.abstract Dung has been an important material used by humans since at least the early Neolithic Period. It accumulated within domesticated animal enclosures and it was used as fuel and fertiliser as well as construction material. While the formers were studied in details, to date, the use of dung as a construction material received less attention. Here, we present a geo-ethnoarchaeological pilot study aimed at understanding the archaeological formation processes of outdoor dung-plastered floors and the possibility to identify dung markers. We studied two house terrace in a rural village from a humid tropical environment in South India (Western Ghats). Sediment samples were collected from the plastered terrace surfaces, the terraces embankment and from forest soil controls. Multi-proxy analysis of the samples included infrared spectroscopy, phytolith and dung spherulite quantification, loss on ignition, elemental analysis and micromorphological analysis. The plastering of the floors was made by mixing a quantity of dung with water and by spreading the slurry unevenly across the terrace. This result in formation of a 0.1- to 0.5-mm-thick dung crust that the analyses showed to be rich in humified organics but with very low concentrations of phytoliths and dung spherulites. The careless spreading of the dung slurry, however, resulted in localised deposition of dung lumps that displayed relatively high concentrations of phytoliths, dung spherulites, organic matter, phosphorus and strontium. The generally low preservation of dung markers seems to be related to pre- and post-depositional processes. Forest arboreal plants are low phytoliths producer, having therefore little input of these siliceous bodies in the animal faeces. Post depositional processes included trampling, sweeping and water runoff that caused severe mechanical weathering, resulting in the heavy decay of the dung crust and the removal of dung residues from the terrace surfaces. In addition, the acidic conditions of a humid tropical environment likely promoted the complete dissolution of dung spherulites. This study provides new data and insights on the potentials and limitations of dung identification in outdoor settings in humid tropical environments. We suggest possible directions for advancing the study of archaeological dung used as construction materials.
dc.description.sponsorship Open access funding provided by Max Planck Society. This research was partly funded by the People Programme (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions) of the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under REA agreement no. 623293 granted to D.E.F. at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge. The work of S.G.A. was supported by the Max Planck Society.
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.language.iso eng
dc.publisher Springer
dc.relation.ispartof Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. 2019 Jun 01;11(6):2683-98
dc.rights This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
dc.rights.uri http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
dc.title Potentials and limitations for the identification of outdoor dung plasters in humid tropical environment: a geo-ethnoarchaeological case study from South India
dc.type info:eu-repo/semantics/article
dc.identifier.doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12520-018-0682-y
dc.subject.keyword Dung
dc.subject.keyword Geo-ethnoarchaeology
dc.subject.keyword Humid tropical environment
dc.subject.keyword Plastered floors
dc.subject.keyword Phytoliths
dc.relation.projectID info:eu-repo/grantAgreement/EC/FP7/623293
dc.rights.accessRights info:eu-repo/semantics/openAccess
dc.type.version info:eu-repo/semantics/publishedVersion


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