For the birds — An environmental archaeological analysis of Byzantine pigeon towers at Shivta (Negev Desert, Israel)

Jennifer Ramsay, Yotam Tepper, Mina Weinstein-Evron, Sophia Aharonovich, Nili Liphschitz, Nimrod Marom, Guy Bar-Oz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pigeon rearing was an integral part of the agricultural regime that dominated the Negev region in Israel throughout the Roman and Byzantine periods. Dozens of structures have been documented that relate to the raising of pigeons and the exploitation of their dung as a fertilizer as is attested in the literary sources (Pliny, Columella and Varro). Excavation of a dovecote near Shivta produced large quantities of pigeon dung and sediments. The material recovered was processed for floral remains (both macro and micro) and archaeozoological remains. We present a holistic look at pigeon diet and local environmental conditions in the Byzantine Negev through the archaeobotanical remains. Demographic and morphometric analysis of size and shape of the pigeon bones refine our understanding of pigeon species that were bred in antiquity as well as inform on their life-histories. This integrated examination from an agro-archaeological perspective illustrates the complexity of desert agriculture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)718-727
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was conducted under the license of the Israel Antiquary Authority ( G-31/11 ). We are grateful for the assistance of Shivta National Park personnel, Ami and Dina Oach (Shivta Farm), Michael Shomroni, Avishi Blumenkrantz, Ada Caspi and Yigal Tepper (field survey) and Anat Regev-Gisis (graphic design). This work was supported by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement no 648427 ), the Israel Science Foundation (grant no 340-14 ) and the National Geographic Society ( 3857–10 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd


  • Agro-archaeology
  • Archaeobotany
  • Byzantine
  • Desert agriculture
  • Palynology
  • Pigeon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


Dive into the research topics of 'For the birds — An environmental archaeological analysis of Byzantine pigeon towers at Shivta (Negev Desert, Israel)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this