Faecal pellets, rock shelters, and seasonality: The chemistry of stabling in the Negev of Israel in late prehistory

Serge Yan Landau, Levana Dvash, Philippa Ryan, David Saltz, Tova Deutch, Steven A. Rosen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Chemical and phytolith analyses of well-preserved goat faecal pellets from different strata of the Ramon I Rock Shelter, in the Makhtesh Ramon (Crater) in the Central Negev, Israel, show patterns of seasonal stabling and grazing among nomads from three different periods, the Late Neolithic, the Early Bronze Age, and recent times (ca. 1800 AD to date). Low faecal lignin and high protein in the ancient pellets, together with the high proportion of phytoliths from monocotyledons, but absence from grass inflorescences and seeds, reflect consumption of lush green herbage, with no browsing. In contrast, pellets from recent flocks indicate either foddering or later seasonal grazing. The chemistry of pellets collected from wild ibex grazing and browsing in spring through autumn corroborate the conclusion that ancient grazing, as reflected in the rock shelter materials, was early in the growing season. The morphometry of faecal pellets suggests that the goats were larger in the Early Bronze than in the Late Neolithic and Recent Periods. In general, the presence of rock shelter stabling spatially remote from habitation sites indicates seasonal social/economic fission, with specialized goatherds separating from the primary campsites for short periods as early as the Late Neolithic. A Near Infrared non-destructive calibration of protein in faecal pellets was implemented.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104219
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Goat
  • Grazing
  • Morphometry
  • NIRS
  • Neolithic
  • Pastoral
  • Phytoliths

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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