The pots reflect how was the consumption of milk in Europe 7,000 years ago

The pots reflect how was the consumption of milk in Europe 7,000 years ago

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An international research team, led by the researcherMiriam cubas, from the University of York (United Kingdom) and the University of Oviedo, has achieved recover waste from culinary activities in the vessels used by prehistoric societies between 7,500 and 5,500 years ago.

Chemical analysis of the remains ofanimal fatsplant waxfish oils Ypreserved resins In prehistoric ceramics, it has allowed the Cubas team to explore the different uses of these containers by Neolithic communities, and particularly their relationship with agricultural and livestock activities.

The results of the study, published in the journalNature Communications, reflect agreat variation in the use of ceramics among these communities.

Among the resources identified, thedairy products, whose presence increases towards northern Europe, the French Atlantic region and the British Isles.

“Our study offers a broad regional comparison on the use of ceramics during Prehistory. These results contribute to obtain more information on how human groups lived during this process of change so momentous that led to the introduction of livestock and agriculture ", says Miriam Cubas, lead author of the article.

Livestock differences between northern and southern Europe

The authors, among whom isAndré Colonese, a researcher from the Department of Prehistory and the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), reveal that these differences may be related to the various livestock activities, with a greater presence of thecattle in the north and sheep and goat-centered livestock farming in southern Europe.

In theIberian Peninsula These culinary practices reflect an importance of meat resources from domestic animals (sheep and goat) that are introduced in those moments.

This is one of the broadest regional comparisons published to date on the use of ceramics during Prehistory.

“The differences regarding the frequency of appearance of dairy products could be important for understanding the evolution oflactose tolerance in adults in Europe. Nowadays, the genetic mutations that allow adults to digest the lactose present in milk have a greater presence in northwestern Europe than in southern regions ”, he says.Oliver Craig, of the Department of Archeology of the University of York.

Absence of seafood

Another of the most surprising findings is the absence ofseafood in documented ceramics, even in archaeological sites located in coastal areas, where these food resources are clearly available. An exception is the Baltic area, where both dairy resources and foods of marine origin were prepared in pottery.

"These data offer us a window into the richness of culinary traditions among the early farmers of Western Europe, and the ability these groups had to adapt to different climatic and cultural conditions," adds André Colonese.

The team of researchers has analyzed the organic residues preserved in ancient Neolithic ceramics from24 archaeological sites located between Portugal and the Baltic. The research allows us to expand our knowledge about the culinary practices of these first agricultural societies, the role that different foods played and their impact on the diet of the first peasant communities.


Cubas et al. 2020. “Latitudinal gradient in dairy production with the introduction of farming in Atlantic Europe”.Nature Communications. doi: 10.1038 / s41467-020-15907-4.
Research funded by the European Commission through a Marie Curie project (First ceramics of Atlantic Europe: manufacture and function -CerAM, MSC 653354) led by Miriam Cubas.

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