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Ancient Pee Suggests Agricultural Revolution Whizzed By

April 17, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

The only decided to use pee residue because they were having trouble reconstructing a timeline with feces and bone.

“We thought, well, humans and animals pee, and when they pee, they release a bunch of salt,” said lead author Jordan Abell, a graduate student at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in a university press release. “At a dry place like this, we didn’t think salts would be washed away and redistributed.”

Though it’s not possible to distinguish human pee salts from those of other animals, the researchers used the salts to estimate population density. They found there was a turning point about 10,000 years ago when concentrations of urine salts in the archaeological layer became 1,000 times higher than those in previous layers. They estimate that between between 8450 and 7450 B.C., an average of 1,790 people and other animals lived and peed at Aşıklı Höyük every day.

This would’ve been too many people for the settlement buildings to support, which is why a lot of those urinators were probably sheep and goats. The sharp increase in pee salts around 10,000 years ago “may be new evidence for a more rapid transition” toward animal domestication, Abell said in the press release.

There are still a lot of questions remaining about where, when and how the Neolithic Revolution occurred. The pee salt study may be just a drop in the bucket, but it nevertheless helps us narrow the timeline for this region.

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