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  Dairy-related activity differed across regions in Neolithic culture and may have impacted culture spread and animal domestication. Martin Abegglen, Wikimedia Commons


Dairy-related activity differed across regions in Neolithic culture and may have impacted culture spread and animal domestication. Martin Abegglen, Wikimedia Commons

Original article:

popular-archaeology.com

An archeological study* finds regional differences in the level of dairy-related activity in early Neolithic farming communities across the Mediterranean region. Previous research suggests that the production of dairy products such as milk in Neolithic Mediterranean communities could have been an impetus for animal domestication. To study the rise of dairy production in the Mediterranean region, Mélanie Roffet-Salque and colleagues analyzed lipid residues on more than 550 ceramic sherds and osteo-archeological data on age-at-death for domesticated animals from 82 sites in the northern Mediterranean and Near East that dated between the seventh and fifth millennia BC. In combination with previously published data, the ceramic and osteo-archaeological analyses revealed regional differences in the level of dairy-related activity in Early Neolithic farming communities across the Mediterranean region. Moreover, milk residues in ceramic artifacts from both the east and west of the region contrasted with data from sites in northern Greece, where high frequencies of pig bones indicated a reliance on meat production. According to the authors, except for parts of mainland Greece, dairy production was likely practiced across the Mediterranean region from the onset of agriculture and might have contributed to the spread of culture and animal domestication in the region.

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A team of archaeologists at the University of York have revealed new insights into cuisine choices and eating habits at Durrington Walls – a Late Neolithic monument and settlement site thought to be the residence for the builders of nearby Stonehenge during the 25th century BC.

A team of archaeologists at the University of York have revealed new insights into cuisine choices and eating habits at Durrington Walls – a Late Neolithic monument and settlement site thought to be the residence for the builders of nearby Stonehenge during the 25th century BC.

Original Article:

heritagedaily.com

 

A team of archaeologists at the University of York have revealed new insights into cuisine choices and eating habits at Durrington Walls – a Late Neolithic monument and settlement site thought to be the residence for the builders of nearby Stonehenge during the 25th century BC.

Together with researchers at the University of Sheffield, detailed analysis of pottery and animal bones has uncovered evidence of organised feasts featuring barbeque-style roasting, and an unexpected pattern in how foods were distributed and shared across the site.

Chemically analysing food residues remaining on several hundred fragments of pottery, the York team found differences in the way pots were used. Pots deposited in residential areas were found to be used for cooking animal products including pork, beef and dairy, whereas pottery from the ceremonial spaces was used predominantly for dairy.

Such spatial patterning could mean that milk, yoghurts and cheeses were perceived as fairly exclusive foods only consumed by a select few, or that milk products – today often regarded as a symbol of purity – were used in public ceremonies.

Unusually, there was very little evidence of plant food preparation at any part of the site. The main evidence points to mass animal consumption, particularly of pigs. Further analysis of animal bones, conducted at the University of Sheffield, found that many pigs were killed before reaching their maximum weight. This is strong evidence of planned autumn and winter slaughtering and feasting-like consumption.

The main methods of cooking meat are thought to be boiling and roasting in pots probably around indoor hearths, and larger barbeque-style roasting outdoors – the latter evidenced by distinctive burn patterns on animal bones.

Bones from all parts of the animal skeleton were found, indicating that livestock was walked to the site rather than introduced as joints of meat. Isotopic analysis indicates that cattle originated from many different locations, some far away from the site. This is significant as it would require orchestration of a large number of volunteers likely drawn from far and wide. The observed patterns of feasting do not fit with a slave-based society where labour was forced and coerced, as some have suggested.

Dr Oliver Craig, Reader in Archaeological Science at the University of York and lead author on the paper, said: “Evidence of food-sharing and activity-zoning at Durrington Walls shows a greater degree of culinary organisation than was expected for this period of British prehistory. The inhabitants and many visitors to this site possessed a shared understanding of how foods should be prepared, consumed and disposed. This, together with evidence of feasting, suggests Durrington Walls was a well-organised working community.”

Professor Mike Parker Pearson, Professor at University College London and Director of the Feeding Stonehenge project who also led the excavations at Durrington Walls, said: “This new research has given us a fantastic insight into the organisation of large-scale feasting among the people who built Stonehenge. Animals were brought from all over Britain to be barbecued and cooked in open-air mass gatherings and also to be eaten in more privately organized meals within the many houses at Durrington Walls.

“The special placing of milk pots at the larger ceremonial buildings reveals that certain products had a ritual significance beyond that of nutrition alone. The sharing of food had religious as well as social connotations for promoting unity among Britain’s scattered farming communities in prehistory. ”

Dr Lisa-Marie Shillito, who analysed the pottery samples and recently joined Newcastle University, added: “The combination of pottery analysis with the study of animal bones is really effective, and shows how these different types of evidence can be brought together to provide a detailed picture of food and cuisine in the past”.

UNIVERSITY OF YORK

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As dairy farmers anxiously await the lifting of EU milk quotas in April this year, new research from the University of Bristol, UK has revealed the antiquity of dairy farming in a region famous for its dairy exports: Ireland.

Research published today in the Journal of Environmental Archaeology shows that dairying on the island goes back approximately 6,000 years, revealed through traces of ancient dairy fats found in pots dating to around 4,000 to 2,500 BC.

Dr Jessica Smyth of Bristol’s School of Chemistry analysed nearly 500 pots from the Neolithic, the period when people switched from hunting and gathering to farming. In Britain and Ireland, this change occurred around 4,000 BC, more than 1,000 years later than on the Continent. The Bristol team use a combination of fat or lipid ‘fingerprinting’ and compound-specific carbon isotope techniques to identify the origin of fats preserved in the walls of prehistoric cooking pots.

Dr Smyth, who led the study, said: “We know from previous research that dairying was an important part of many early farming economies, but what was a big surprise was the prevalence of dairy residues in Irish pots. It looks to have been a very important food source.”

Ninety per cent of the residues tested for fat origin were found to be dairy fats, with ten per cent found to be meat fats (beef or mutton) or a mixture of milk and meat.

Dr Smyth added: “People can obviously cook meat in other ways than boiling it in pots, and there is plenty of evidence for cereal processing at this time, but the Irish dairy signal remains very striking, particularly when you compare it with the continental European data sets. Ireland really does seem to go mad for milk in the Neolithic.”

Milk is still a traditional and valuable food in Europe today, produced by over 30 million dairy cows and representing 14 per cent of the value of European agricultural production [2011 figures]. Six thousand years ago, dairying in Ireland looked very different.

Dr Smyth said: “We know that settlements were small in the Irish Neolithic, usually one or two houses, so it’s likely that early farming groups had just one or two animals supporting the household with their products, which were perhaps part of a wider community herd.”

Such results are even more significant given the fact that domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep and goats had to be physically shipped to Ireland as part of the process, as these animals were not native to the island.

“These are a very determined group of pioneer farmers. They are setting up everything from scratch, and taking a significant gamble with their livelihoods and those of their dependants,” Dr Smyth said.

It would appear that the Irish love of dairy products is very ancient, and the suitability of the island for dairy farming was recognised early in prehistory.

ITR-PCL-00045299

Original article:
eurekalert.org

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Finland’s love of milk has been traced back to 2500 BC, thanks to high-tech techniques to analyze residues preserved in fragments of ancient pots.

Prehistoric dairy farming at the extremes

The Finns are the world’s biggest milk drinkers today but experts had previously been unable to establish whether prehistoric dairy farming was possible in the harsh environment that far north, where there is snow for up to four months a year.

Research by the Universities of Bristol and Helsinki, published July 30 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first of its kind to identify that dairying took place at this latitude — 60 degrees north of the equator.

This is equally as far north as Canada’s Northwestern territories, Anchorage in Alaska, Southern Greenland and near Yakutsk in Siberia.

Researchers used a series of techniques, not just to analyse the ancient pots, but also to look at modern-day Finnish peoples’ ability to digest milk into adulthood.

By comparing the residues found in the walls of cooking pots from two separate eras and cultures, dating to circa 3900 BC to 3300 BC and circa 2500 BC, it was evident that the more recent pottery fragments showed evidence of milk fats.

This coincided with the transition from a culture of hunting and fishing — relying mainly on marine foods — to the arrival of ‘Corded Ware’ settlements which we now know saw the introduction of animal domestication.

Lead author Dr Lucy Cramp, from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bristol University, said: “This is remarkable evidence which proves that four and a half thousand years ago, Stone Age people must have been foddering and sheltering domesticated animals over harsh winters, in conditions that even nowadays we would find challenging.”

The results also drew a connection between the ‘Corded Ware’ farming settlers — who were likely to have been genetically different to the hunting and fishing communities — and modern day Finns.

Fellow researcher Dr Volker Heyd added: “Our results show a clear link between an incoming pre-historic population, milk drinking and the ability to digest milk in adulthood still visible in the genetic distribution of modern Finland, which remains one of the highest consumers of dairy products in the world.”

Professor Richard Evershed, from the School of Chemistry said: “It never ceases to amaze me that these sensitive chemical signatures of changing human life survive in the archaeological record for thousands of years. And it leaves one pondering what was motivating the people to move into these challenging regions?”

Original article:
sciencedaily

Lucy J E Cramp, Richard P Evershed, Mika Lavento, Petri Halinen, Kristiina Mannermaa, Markku Oinonen, Johannes Kettunen, Markus Perola, Päivi Onkamo and Volker Heyd. Neolithic dairy farming at the extreme of agriculture in northern Europe. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, July 30, 2014;

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Corded Ware sherds.
Credit: Finnish National Board of Antiquities

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20140219-145336.jpg

Image: Hans Splinter (Flickr, used under a CC BY-ND 3.0)

Topic: Neolithic diet

The appearance of farming, from its inception in the Near East around 12 000 years ago to the northwestern extremes of Europe by the fourth millennium BCE or shortly thereafter has led to various models being created to explain the Neolithisation of northern Europe; however, resolving these different scenarios has proved problematic due to poor faunal preservation and a need to have a quantitative methodology to examine disparate locations.

New research by archaeologists and chemists from the University of Bristol and Cardiff University published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B attempts to answer the question of dietary change utilising multiple evidence strands, which qualitatively and quantitatively maps subsistence dietary change in the north-east Atlantic archipelagos from the Late Mesolithic into the Neolithic and up to 1400 CE

Cross disciplinary techniques

To do so the researchers had to use cross disciplinary techniques to investigate and sample millions of bone fragments and over 1000 ceramic cooking pots. The model involved investigating sites with hunter–gatherer–fisher influences tested against one of the dominant adoptions of farming using a novel suite of lipid biomarkers and stable carbon isotope signatures of individual fatty acids preserved in cooking vessels.

The team, led by Professor Richard Evershed of the University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry, developed new techniques in an effort to identify fish oils in the pots. Their findings, together with archaeozoological and human skeletal analysis explored by the Cardiff group led by Dr Jacqui Mulville, confirmed that a drop in marine resource usage by early farmers coincided with with the adoption of intensive dairy farming, with more than 99 per cent of the earliest farmer’s cooking pots lacking any marine derived residues.

Human bone collagen contains a unique chemical signature for those eating seafood; while the early fisher folk possessed this signature it was lacking in the later farmers, which backed up the lack of marine residues in the pottery.

Seafood not important to neolithic farmers

Lead author of the study, Dr Lucy Cramp said: “The absence of lipid residues of marine foods in hundreds of cooking pots is really significant. It certainly stacks up with the skeletal isotope evidence to provide a clear picture that seafood was of little importance in the diets of the Neolithic farmers of the region.”

Over 1,000 cooking pots were examined for lipid deposts such as this early Neolithic carinated bowl from Knocknab, Dumfries and Galloway. Image Alison Sheridon, NMS

The Bristol team used a compound-specific carbon isotope technique they have developed to identify the actual fats preserved in the cooking pots, showing that dairy products dominated the menu right across Britain and Ireland as soon as cattle and sheep arrived.

The ability to milk animals was a revolution in food production as, for the first time humans did not have to kill animals to obtain food. As every farmer knows, milking stock requires a high level of skill and knowledge. In view of this, team member, Alison Sheridan from National Museums Scotland concludes that: “The use of cattle for dairy products from the earliest Neolithic confirms the view that farming was introduced by experienced immigrants.”

New diet based around dairying

Viewed together the findings show that Early British hunters ate a diet rich in venison and wild boar as well as eating quantities of sea food, including seals and shellfish. With the introduction of domestic animals some 6,000 years ago they quickly gave up wild foods and fishing was largely abandoned with people adopting a new diet based around dairying.

Dr Cramp continued: “Amazingly, it was another 4,000 years before sea food remains appeared in pots again, during the Iron Age, and it was only with the arrival of the Vikings that fish became a significant part of our diet.”

Why people changed so abruptly from a seafood to farming diet still remains a mystery. This pattern of Neolithisation contrasts markedly to that occurring in the Baltic at exactly the same time, suggesting that geographically distinct ecological and cultural influences dictated the evolution of subsistence practices at this critical transitional phase of European prehistory.

Source: University of Bristol/Proc R Soc B

Original article:
past horizons
Feb 18, 2014

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