Neolithic European Farmers Use of Milk 7,400 Years Ago
Researchers have found dairy fat residue on the walls of pottery vessels made in Linearbandkeramik communities of Central Europe.
The authors of a recent study, which is a component of the European NeoMilk project, examined the food remains in almost 4,300 pottery vessels from 70 different Linearbandkeramik settlements. The findings showed significant regional heterogeneity in the use of milk, with just 65% of the sites exhibiting evidence of dairy fats in pottery containers, indicating that despite its widespread use, early farmers did not always consume milk.
The researchers produced over 30 new radiocarbon dates to trace the beginning of dairy exploitation by Linearbandkeramik farmers by concentrating on the sites and pottery with dairy waste. The oldest Linearbandkeramik settlements began about the middle of the sixth millennium BCE, which these new dates agree with.
Early Neolithic farmers' adoption and dissemination of ruminant animal-based agriculture had a significant impact on the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Europe, radically altering prehistoric European culture, biology, and economics in ways that are fundamental to modern life. Importantly, these modifications supported the spread of dairy economies around the globe and the development of lactase persistence in Europeans.
This study is very important because it offers fresh perspectives on when substantial shifts in European purchasing behavior for human food occurred. Despite variations in the level of activity, it shows unequivocally that dairy items were widely available in the Early Neolithic.
Casanova, E., Knowles, T. D. J., Bayliss, A., Roffet-Salque, M., Heyd, V., Pyzel, J., Claßen, E., Domboróczki, L., Ilett, M., Lefranc, P., Jeunesse, C., Marciniak, A., van Wijk, I., & Evershed, R. P. (2022). Dating the emergence of dairying by the first farmers of Central Europe using 14C analysis of fatty acids preserved in pottery vessels. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119(43), e2109325118. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2109325118