Ancient goat urine reveals how Anatolian farmers began to tame their herds | Science

Elena Odareeva / Alamy Stock Photo

By angus chen

Buried in the ruins of an ancient village in the center of Turkey, along with tools and garbage, are the body wastes of people, and goats, who lived there 10,000 years ago. While manure was used for fuel and construction material, urine salts remain trapped in layers of sediment beneath the village. Now, archaeologists have used these salts to recreate parts of the 1000-year history of the village, including its 500-year process of partial domestication of animals.

Archaeologists do not normally look for urine salts, but due to the arid environment of central Turkey, and the plastered floors of ancient buildings that protect the land below, the researchers thought that some of them could stay on the site's land, called Aşıklı Höyük .

They were not disappointed. They found large concentrations of salts in each layer of sediment in Aşıklı Höyük, which revealed how many mammals, human and non-human, made the village their home from about 8450 BC. C. to 7450 a. C. Researchers estimated the amount of human waste that must have been produced based on the number of dwellings dug in each layer. The remaining urine salts, scientists say, reflect how many sheep or goats lived in or near the village at the same time.

In the first hundred years of the village, when humans in Anatolia were beginning to abandon the nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, very few additional salts appear, just enough for a few animals at a time. But for the next 400 years, the sheep and goats that live in Aşıklı Höyük multiply by a factor of about 10 every few centuries, the team reports today. Scientific advances.

In the most recent layer, beginning around 7900 a. C., the villagers seem to have moved their flock to the settlement strip, where there were more sheep and goats than the approximately 500 to 1000 people who lived in the village. That movement suggests that the villagers moved slowly from the capture of a few wild animals to the breeding and breeding of a large group of semi-nomads. But the slow pace of that movement suggests to researchers that this process of domestication probably started by accident.

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