Wattle & Daub: Craft, Conservation & Wiltshire Case Study
3.6 Daub
4.1 Soils
4.1.3 Strength
4.2 Dung
4.2.2 Lignin
4.2.3 Urine
4.3 Fibre
5.4.2 Renewal

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4.2 Dung

Cow dung was habitually used in daub and so one may suppose there were particular benefits in its inclusion. Unfortunately, there appears to be no historic reference as to the properties of dung that encouraged its specification. Recent publications suggest that dung may improve workability and durability or may act as an additional binder, but supporting evidence is not given.[62]
Knowledge has also been lost as to whether fresh, old or weathered dung was used.[63] Since there is no historic reference to the dung being old or weathered, it is conceivable that this is a recent invention resulting from modern attitudes toward odour and hygiene. In any case, dried and fresh dung differ mainly in the water content and so are likely to effect only the amount of water, if any, added during mixing of the daub.
Additionally, it has recently been proposed that the mucus in cow dung has two effects on earth used for walling: it reacts with lime to form a gel, increasing strength prior to carbonation of the lime and it stabilises clay.[64] However, most cobs and daubs do not contain lime and so the formation of a gel seems unconvincing as to why the dung was added.

This illustrates how the literature is unclear as to the active dung component in daub. Therefore, as an attempt to identify the active constituent(s) of dung, a more thorough review of this topic was undertaken, the results of which are presented below.

[62] Ashurst and Ashurst (1988a), p.117 suggest dung was added to improve workability and durability. Pearson (1992), p.6, and Holmes and Wingate (1997), p.163, both suggest dung modifies plasticity, acts as a binder and so improves durability. Wright (1991), p.98, also offers benefits as being improved strength and resistance to damp. Minke (2000). pp.44-46  states that manure and urine improve binding, undigested fibre acts as reinforcement and ammonia compounds are a disinfectant..
[63] Ashurst and Ashurst (1988a), p.117 suggest ‘old or weathered dung’ was used, yet fresh dung is stated by Reid (1989) and Forrester (1959), p.37. Minke (2000), p.45, suggests dung should be left one to four days to ferment but does not state a historical precendent.
[64] Ashurst and Ashurst (1988a), p.96.