January 24, 2021


Aim for Excellence

Study traces spread of early dairy farming across Western Europe

A review has tracked the shift from hunter-gatherer life to early farming that occurred in...

A review has tracked the shift from hunter-gatherer life to early farming that occurred in prehistoric Europe over a interval of about 1,five hundred yrs.

An intercontinental group of scientists, led by scientists at the College of York, analysed the molecular continues to be of foodstuff still left in pottery employed by the 1st farmers who settled alongside the Atlantic Coast of Europe from 7,000 to six,000 yrs back.

The scientists report proof of dairy merchandise in 80% of the pottery fragments from the Atlantic coastline of what is now Britain and Ireland. In comparison, dairy farming on the Southern Atlantic coastline of what is now Portugal and Spain appears to have been a lot much less intensive, and with a increased use of sheep and goats fairly than cows.

The review confirms that the earliest farmers to get there on the Southern Atlantic coastline exploited animals for their milk but suggests that dairying only genuinely took off when it spread to northern latitudes, with progressively extra dairy merchandise processed in ceramic vessels.

Prehistoric farmers colonising Northern places with harsher climates may perhaps have had a increased have to have for the nutritional positive aspects of milk, such as vitamin D and fats, the authors of the review propose.

Senior author of the paper, Professor Oliver Craig from the Office of Archaeology at the College of York, reported: “Latitudinal dissimilarities in the scale of dairy generation could possibly also be critical for comprehending the evolution of adult lactase persistence across Europe. These days, the genetic modify that will allow adults to digest the lactose in milk is at a lot higher frequency in Northwestern Europeans than their southern counterparts”.

The investigation group examined organic residues preserved in Early Neolithic pottery from 24 archaeological internet sites located involving Portugal and Normandy as nicely as in the Western Baltic.

They uncovered remarkably minor proof for maritime foods in pottery even from internet sites positioned close to the Atlantic shoreline, with a good deal of prospects for fishing and shellfish collecting. An exception was in the Western Baltic where by dairy foods and maritime foods were being both organized in pottery.

Guide author of the paper, Dr Miriam Cubas, reported: “This stunning discovery could imply that several prehistoric farmers shunned maritime foods in favour of dairy, but probably fish and shellfish were being simply processed in other methods.

“Our review is a single of the biggest regional comparisons of early pottery use. It has drop new light on the spread of early farming across Atlantic Europe and showed that there was enormous wide variety in the way early farmers lived. These final results support us to attain extra of an insight into the lives of people living all through this course of action of momentous modify in culture and life-style – from hunter-gatherer to farming.”

‘Latitudinal gradient in dairy generation with the introduction of farming in Atlantic Europe’ is printed in Nature Communications.


This investigation was carried out in collaboration involving the College of York, Sociedad de Ciencias Aranzadi, College Autónoma of Barcelona, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human Historical past, College of Cantabria, INRAP, Provider Régional de l’Archéologie of Normandy, Provider Archéologie du Conseil Départemental du Calvados, College of Lisbon-UNIARQ, College of Santiago de Compostela, College of Rennes, Museo de Prehistoria y Arqueología de Cantabria, Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social, Museu Arqueológico de São Miguel de Odrinhas and College of Barcelona.

The review was funded by the European Fee as a result of the Marie Curie project and by the Arts and Humanities Investigation Council.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not dependable for the precision of information releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing establishments or for the use of any information as a result of the EurekAlert system.