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'Seeing Shit': Assessing the Visibility of Dung Tempering in Ancient Pottery Using an Experimental Approach

Amicone, S; Morandi, LF; Gur-Arieh, S; (2021) 'Seeing Shit': Assessing the Visibility of Dung Tempering in Ancient Pottery Using an Experimental Approach. Environmental Archaeology , 26 (4) pp. 423-438. 10.1080/14614103.2020.1852758. Green open access

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Abstract

Widespread ethnographic evidence exists for the addition of animal dung to clay during the process of ceramic production. However, conclusive evidence of dung tempering in archaeological ceramics is relatively rare. The aim of this study is to ascertain whether, and under which conditions, dung tempering of pottery is identifiable. To answer these questions, we assessed whether a combination of micro-particle analysis in loose sediment and thin-section petrography can reveal the addition of dung to the clay paste by focusing on faecal spherulites, ash pseudomorphs, phytoliths and coprophilous fungal spores. We analysed several series of experimentally produced ceramic briquettes tempered with different types of dung and dung ash, which were fired at a range of increasing temperatures. Our study shows that the identification of dung tempering represents a challenge, and it depends on a number of different factors, among others the original presence of dung markers in the dung used, the manufacturing process, the firing temperatures and the firing atmosphere. Overall, through a multidisciplinary approach, our work clarifies a variety of issues connected to the identification of dung in ancient pottery, highlighting the role of faecal spherulites as the most promising proxy.

Type: Article
Title: 'Seeing Shit': Assessing the Visibility of Dung Tempering in Ancient Pottery Using an Experimental Approach
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/14614103.2020.1852758
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14614103.2020.1852758
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Geology, Dung tempering, pottery technology, experimental archaeology, ceramic petrography, faecal spherulites, dung fungal spores, phytoliths
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10125725
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