For the birds — An environmental archaeological analysis of Byzantine pigeon towers at Shivta (Negev Desert, Israel)

Jennifer Ramsay*, Yotam Tepper, Mina Weinstein-Evron, Sophia Aharonovich, Nili Liphschitz, Nimrod Marom, Guy Bar-Oz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations

Abstract

Pigeon rearing was an integral part of the agricultural regime that dominated the Negev region in Israel throughout the Roman and Byzantine periods. Dozens of structures have been documented that relate to the raising of pigeons and the exploitation of their dung as a fertilizer as is attested in the literary sources (Pliny, Columella and Varro). Excavation of a dovecote near Shivta produced large quantities of pigeon dung and sediments. The material recovered was processed for floral remains (both macro and micro) and archaeozoological remains. We present a holistic look at pigeon diet and local environmental conditions in the Byzantine Negev through the archaeobotanical remains. Demographic and morphometric analysis of size and shape of the pigeon bones refine our understanding of pigeon species that were bred in antiquity as well as inform on their life-histories. This integrated examination from an agro-archaeological perspective illustrates the complexity of desert agriculture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)718-727
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Volume9
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016

Funding

FundersFunder number
National Geographic Society3857–10
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme648427
European Research Council
Israel Science Foundation340-14

    Keywords

    • Agro-archaeology
    • Archaeobotany
    • Byzantine
    • Desert agriculture
    • Palynology
    • Pigeon

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