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Early Farmers Kept Dairy Animals 9,000 Years Ago

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Neolithic dairy herdsYORK, ENGLAND—Live Science reports that researchers from the University of York, the University of Bristol, and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique dated more than 500 Neolithic pottery vessels recovered in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey, and analyzed their contents for traces of dairy products and fat residues. The team members also examined animal bones found at the more than 80 archaeological sites to compare the types of fats found in the pots with the kinds of animals that were kept by the farmers. They found that in the eastern and western areas of the northern Mediterranean, dairying was commonly practiced, but not in northern Greece, where meat production was more popular. Cynthianne Spiteri of the University of Tübingen explained that milk was probably an important resource for early farmers, who may have turned milk into yogurt and cheese to make it easier to digest. Genetic testing of human bones at the sites could reveal if the early farmers were able to digest lactose. The team also found that that Neolithic communities living in rugged terrain were more likely to raise sheep and goats, while open landscapes with plenty of water were better for keeping cattle herds. To read more about food in the archaeological record, go to “A Prehistoric Cocktail Party.”

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