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Title: Investigating traces of activities, diet and seasonality in middens at Neolithic catalhoyuk : An integration of microstratigraphic, phytolith and chemical analyses
Author: Shillito, Lisa -Marie
ISNI:       0000 0004 2698 0377
Awarding Body: The University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2008
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This research examines formation processes of middens and the associated activities at the site of Catalh6yuk, Turkey. Using this site as a case study, this research has wider significance for understanding the Neolithic of the region and for the study of middens in general. Middens are a unique deposit in that they contain traces of activities that may not be found in cleaner contexts such as floors, and contain materials such as ash, animal dung, phytoliths and coprolites which can inform on plant resource use, diet and subsistence strategies at a high temporal resolution. In this research thin section micromorphology is used, combined with phytolith analysis of individual layers, to examine both the composition and associations of finely stratified midden deposits in situ. Additional analyses of mineral components using FT-IR and SEM-EDX has been carried out, along with biomolecular analysis of organic residues in coprolites by GC-MS, to further characterise material that is difficult to analyse by thin section alone. This integrated analysis contributes to the understanding of midden formation processes and activities, as well as environment, agriculture, plant resource use, diet and fuel use. This analysis has developed a new method for classifying complex midden deposits based on their micro-inclusions and micro-structure, and has identified key deposits such as hackberry pericarps in coprolites, which can potentially be used as seasonal "markers". Examination of midden deposits has provided direct evidence for the use of dung as fuel through the presence of faecal spherulites and reed phytoliths in fuel ash layers, and FT-IR analysis of material embedded in ash indicates clay deposits which could be linked to large open-air firing of pottery. This has wider significance for understanding early pyrotechnology during the Neolithic, and the widespread use of wetland resources i.e. reeds. The dominance of reed phytoliths in the midden assemblage supports the idea of a local wetland environment during the Neolithic. However, thin section observations indicate that phytolith taphonomy at the site is currently poorly understood, and that phytolith size is not a reliable indicator of the growing environment. The samples analysed were found to contain surprisingly few cereals, which also raises questions about the taphonomy of the non-charred cereal remains, and the role of crop growing in the economy. Analysis of coprolites, a frequent deposit in middens, has indicated the presence of lithocholic acid and coprostanol which indicate a human origin for much of this material. This has raised interesting questions on the idea of cleanliness, and has allowed further analysis of diet through observing phytoliths and other inclusions, such as bone, embedded in coprolites, both in situ in thin section, and through examination of extracted phytoliths.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available