Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Differences in Early Neolithic Dairy (Spiteri et al, 2016)

If the conclusion of this research were to hold, then it would appear that dairying was widely practiced in some areas of the Northern Mediterranean but not others, particularly Northern Greece.

The safe consensus view would be that this is a period of subsistence experimentation and nothing more.  That explains the variability of farming and husbandry practices, move on.  I'm not so sure.  Another wretched pay-per-obscurity.

Seen in Popular Archaeology

Cynthianne Debono Spiteri, Rosalind E. Gillis, Mélanie Roffet-Salque, Laura Castells Navarro, Jean Guilaine, Claire Manen, Italo M. Muntoni, Maria Saña Segui, Dushka Urem-Kotsou, Helen L. Whelton, Oliver E. Craig, Jean-Denis Vigne, and Richard P. Evershed "Regional asynchronicity in dairy production and processing in early farming communities of the northern Mediterranean" PNAS 2016 ; published ahead of print November 14, 2016, doi:10.1073/pnas.1607810113 [Link]


In the absence of any direct evidence, the relative importance of meat and dairy productions to Neolithic prehistoric Mediterranean communities has been extensively debated. Here, we combine lipid residue analysis of ceramic vessels with osteo-archaeological age-at-death analysis from 82 northern Mediterranean and Near Eastern sites dating from the seventh to fifth millennia BC to address this question. The findings show variable intensities in dairy and nondairy activities in the Mediterranean region with the slaughter profiles of domesticated ruminants mirroring the results of the organic residue analyses. The finding of milk residues in very early Neolithic pottery (seventh millennium BC) from both the east and west of the region contrasts with much lower intensities in sites of northern Greece, where pig bones are present in higher frequencies compared with other locations. In this region, the slaughter profiles of all domesticated ruminants suggest meat production predominated. Overall, it appears that milk or the by-products of milk was an important foodstuff, which may have contributed significantly to the spread of these cultural groups by providing a nourishing and sustainable product for early farming communities.

This builds on previous analysis of sieve sherds... via the Wall Street Journal, 2013>

See also Salque et al, 2013 "Earliest Evidence of Cheese Making in the Sixth Millennium..."


  1. Such a treat for me to read this: "sieve sherds".

    I've been looking at ancient global roots of words, and found *xya to be shed(water), shade(light) & shield; and was trying to match *xyua to 'through' as in a basket filter, I never even thought of a ceramic *sieve*. Thanks.

  2. Maybe dairy farming also entered Europe from the Maghreb. Archaeological evidence of dairying in Libya c. 7kya, and then northwestern Mediterranean and British Isles not so long after. Plus introgression of African cattle mtDNA haplogroups into European cattle in these regions. 'Butter' in Hausa is 'man shanu'; we see similar word root in Welsh ('menyn'); Old Portuguese: 'manteiga'; Galician: 'manteiga'; Mirandese: 'manteiga'; Asturian: 'mantega'; Spanish: 'manteca'; Aragonese: 'manteca'; Catalan: 'mantega'. The Iberian variants are hypothesised to be derived from Celtiberian. I would suggest an ultimate origin in Afroasiatic/Chadic.