Thursday, 17 November 2016

Widespread evidence of prehistoric dairying discovered along the Mediterranean coast

Date: November 15, 2016
Source: University of Bristol

An inter-disciplinary team of scientists and archaeologists have discovered widespread evidence of prehistoric milk production in southern Europe.

The study uncovered evidence that humans have been utilising milk and dairy products across the northern Mediterranean region from the onset of agriculture -- some 9,000 years ago.

The importance of meat and dairy production in the Neolithic Mediterranean area remains a topic of debate, with previous research showing that the attraction for milk may have been a driving force for the domestication of cud-chewing animals like cows, goats and sheep.

This study combined evidence of the presence of milk and carcass fats in more than 500 pottery vessels together with an examination of the ages at death of domesticated animals excavated from 82 sites dating from the 7th to 5th millennia BC.

The findings show varying intensities of dairying and non-dairying activities in the northern Mediterranean region, with the slaughter profiles of the animals mirroring the fats detected in cooking pots.

The research was brought to fruition by Cynthianne Spiteri, Mélanie Roffet-Salque and Roz Gillis, who undertook the analysis during their PhD research at the Universities of York and Bristol, and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, respectively.

Dr Cynthianne Spiteri said: "At the onset of food production in the northern Mediterranean region, milk was an important resource to these early farming communities.

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