Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

Urine salts elucidate Early Neolithic animal management at Aşıklı Höyük, Turkey

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Science Advances  17 Apr 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 4, eaaw0038
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw0038


The process of sheep and goat (caprine) domestication began by 9000 to 8000 BCE in Southwest Asia. The early Neolithic site at Aşıklı Höyük in central Turkey preserves early archaeological evidence of this transformation, such as culling by age and sex and use of enclosures inside the settlement. People’s strategies for managing caprines evolved at this site over a period of 1000 years, but changes in the scale of the practices are difficult to measure. Dung and midden layers at Aşıklı Höyük are highly enriched in soluble sodium, chlorine, nitrate, and nitrate-nitrogen isotope values, a pattern we attribute largely to urination by humans and animals onto the site. Here, we present an innovative mass balance approach to interpreting these unusual geochemical patterns that allows us to quantify the increase in caprine management over a ~1000-year period, an approach that should be applicable to other arid land tells.

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