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Sci Adv. 2019 Apr 17;5(4):eaaw0038. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw0038. eCollection 2019 Apr.

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

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Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, New York, NY 10964, USA.
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.
Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.
Department of Prehistory, Istanbul University, Istanbul 34134, Turkey.
Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul 34134, Turkey.
School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA.
Institute for Archaeological Sciences, Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Tübingen 72070, Germany.
Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment, Tübingen 72070, Germany.


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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