Deposits rich in bioarchaeological materials were unearthed in two dovecotes found near Sa‘adon, a Byzantine-period village (5th–6th century CE) in the semi-arid part of the Negev. One structure contained a layer of pigeon manure and articulated pigeon skeletons, preserved occupation levels and evidence of sudden destruction (mid-6th century CE), whereas the other lacked distinct occupation debris indicting more orderly human abandonment. Our findings demonstrate the importance of raising pigeons for their high-quality manure in connection with agricultural development around the Negev Byzantine settlements. This product was essential for fertilizing vineyards and orchards; our findings provide direct evidence for the intensive nature of desert agriculture and a new approach to addressing questions of past human sustainability in an environmentally marginal area.
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- sustainable agriculture
- Byzantine archaeology
- marginal areas
- pigeon manure