Variable ovicaprid diet and faecal spherulite production at Amara West, Sudan

Matthew Dalton, Philippa Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents the results of integrated geoarchaeological and archaeobotanical analyses of desiccated and charred ovicaprid dung pellets from the New Kingdom pharaonic settlement of Amara West (Sudan). These analyses reveal diagnostic phytolithic evidence for considerable variations in plant diet amongst the site’s ovicaprid population. These data shed light on aspects of ancient animal husbandry practice, the settlement’s subsistence economy and residents’ exploitation of natural resources. We also observe that specific phytolith types correlate with the presence (and quantity) or absence of calcium carbonate faecal spherulites in analysed dung pellets. This evidence, augmented by experimental analysis of analogous modern plant material, suggests that dietary Ca intake is implicated in faecal spherulite crystallization within the ovicaprid digestive system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-197
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Archaeology: the journal of human palaeoecology
Issue number2
Early online date28 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020
Externally publishedYes


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