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Neolithic farmers or Neolithic foragers? Organic residue analysis of early pottery from Rakushechny Yar on the Lower Don (Russia)

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JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
DateAccepted/In press - 2 Jul 2021
DatePublished (current) - 26 Jul 2021
Issue number141
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)1-16
Original languageEnglish


The emergence of pottery in Europe is associated with two distinct traditions: hunter-gatherers in the east of the continent during the early 6th millennium BC and early agricultural communities in the south-west in the late 7th millennium BC. Here we investigate the function of pottery from the site of Rakushechny Yar, located at the Southern fringe of Eastern Europe, in this putative contact zone between these two economic ‘worlds’. To investigate, organic residue analysis was conducted on 120 samples from the Early Neolithic phase (ca. mid-6th millennium BC) along with microscopic and SEM analysis of associated foodcrusts. The results showed that the earliest phase of pottery use was predominantly used to process riverine resources. Many of the vessels have molecular and isotopic characteristics consistent with migratory fsh, such as sturgeon, confrmed by the identifcation of sturgeon bony structures embedded in the charred surface deposits. There was no evidence of dairy products in any of the vessels, despite the fact these have been routinely identifed in coeval sites to the south. Further analysis of some of the mammalian bones using ZooMS failed to demonstrate that domesticated animals were present in the Early Neolithic. Nevertheless, we argue that intensive exploitation of seasonally migratory fsh, accompanied by large-scale pottery production, created storable surpluses that led to similar socio-economic outcomes as documented in early agricultural societies.

Bibliographical note

© 2021, The Author(s).

    Research areas

  • Early Neolithic hunter-gatherer, Farmers, Lipid residue analysis, ZooMS, Scanning electron microscopy (SEM)

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