A study has analyzed the shift from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to early farming that occurred in prehistoric Europe over a period of around 1,500 years.
A world team of scientists, headed by researchers at the University of York, analyzed the molecular remains of food left in pottery utilized by the first farmers who settled along the Atlantic Coast of Europe from 7,000 to 6,000 years ago.
The researchers report proof of dairy merchandise in nearly 80% of the pottery fragments from the Atlantic coast of what’s now Britain and Ireland. In comparison, dairy farming on the Southern Atlantic coast of what’s now Portugal and Spain appears to have been much less intensive, and with greater use of sheep and goats rather than cows.
The research shows that the earliest farmers to arrive on the Southern Atlantic coast exploited animals for their milk but recommends that dairying only really took off when it reached northern latitudes, with progressively more dairy products processed in ceramic vessels.
Prehistoric farmers colonizing Northern areas with harsher climates may have had a greater need for the nutritional advantages of milk, including vitamin D and fat, the authors of the study shows.
The research staff examined organic residues preserved in Early Neolithic pottery from 24 archaeological sites situated between Portugal and Normandy in addition to in the Western Baltic.