Direct evidence of milk consumption from ancient human dental calculus

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Humans have exploited animal milk as a food resource for at least 8500 years, but the origins, spread, and scale of prehistoric and historic dairying remain poorly understood. Indirect lines of evidence, such as lipid isotopic ratios of pottery residues, faunal mortality profiles, and LP allele frequencies, imply a complex history of dairying at the level of populations. However, in order to understand how, where, and when humans consumed milk products, it is necessary to link evidence of consumption directly to individuals and their dairy livestock. Here we report the first direct evidence of milk consumption, the whey protein β-lactoglobulin (BLG), preserved in human dental calculus from the Bronze Age (ca. 5000 BP) to the present day. Using protein tandem mass spectrometry, we demonstrate that BLG is a species-specific biomarker of dairy consumption, and we identify individuals consuming cattle, sheep, and goat milk products in the archaeological record.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventSociety for American Archaeology - , United States
Duration: 15 Apr 2015 → …


ConferenceSociety for American Archaeology
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Period15/04/15 → …

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