Micro-archaeological indicators for identifying ancient cess deposits: An example from Late Bronze Age Megiddo, Israel

Dafna Langgut, Ruth Shahack-Gross, Eran Arie, Dvora Namdar, Alon Amrani, Matthieu Le Bailly, Israel Finkelstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Several micro-archaeological methods are suggested in this study in order to identify cess deposits. These methods were deployed at a Near Eastern mound (Megiddo, Israel), yet are applicable to any archaeological site anywhere in the world. The study presented here, was performed on a 2–3 mm thick yellowish fibrous material, ca. 40 × 15 cm in size, which was discovered in Area H at Tel Megiddo in relation to a well-built structure dating to the Late Bronze Age IIA (mid-14th century BCE). Area H is located near the remains of a large Late Bronze Age palace, which had been excavated in the early 20th century. In order to reveal the nature of the yellowish fibrous material we carried out infrared spectroscopy, petrographic microscopy and lipid analyses. The results led us to suggest that this substance is related to fecal matter. We therefore analyzed it for pollen and gastrointestinal parasite remains. While the latter were for the most part absent, the palynological investigation provided information about dietary components that are usually under-represented in the reconstruction of vegetative diets, especially beverages and possible use of medicinal plants, consumed by the Megiddo residents, who may had some link to the palace. The paper demonstrates how diverse micro-archaeological analyses complement each other, and when applied in concert yield novel information about the past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-385
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd


The research was supported (in part) by the Israel Science Foundation grant no. 2141/15 , given to D. Langgut and by the Chaim Katzman Archaeology fund at Tel Aviv University given to I. Finkelstein. Infrared and microscopic analyses were conducted by R. Shahack-Gross at the Kimmel Center for Archaeological Science, Weizmann Institute of Science. We are grateful to B. Rosen for the exchange of thoughts and ideas and to M. Cavanagh and A. B. Prins for their help with the preparation of the figures.

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation2141/15
Tel Aviv University


    • Cess deposits
    • Cesspit
    • Late Bronze
    • Manure biomarkers
    • Megiddo
    • Phosphatization
    • Pollen


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