Parallel worlds and mixed economies: multi-proxy analysis reveals complex subsistence systems at the dawn of early farming in the northeast Baltic

Ester Oras, Mari Tõrv, Kristiina Johanson, Eve Rannamäe, Anneli Poska, Lembi Lõugas, Alexandre Jules Andre Lucquin, Jasmine Lundy, Samantha Brown, Shidong Chen, Liivi Varul, Vanda Haferberga, Dardega Legzdiņa, Gunita Zariņa, Lucy Cramp, Volker Heyd, Michaela Reay, Łukasz Pospieszny, Harry Kenneth Robson, Kerkko NordqvistCarl Heron, Oliver Edward Craig, Aivar Kriiska

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The transition from foraging to farming was a key turning point in ancient socio-economies. Yet, the complexities and regional variations of this transformation are still poorly understood. This multi-proxy study provides a new understanding of the introduction and spread of early farming, challenging the notions of hierarchical economies. The most extensive biological and biomolecular dietary overview, combining zooarchaeological, archaeobotanical, dietary stable isotope and pottery lipid residue analyses is presented, to unravel the nature and extent of early farming in the 3rd millennium cal BCE in the northeast Baltic. Farming was introduced by incoming Corded Ware cultural groups (CWC), but some dietary segregation existed within these communities, with some having more access to domesticates, others incorporating more wild resources into their diet. The CWC groups coexisted in parallel with local hunter–fisher–gatherers (HFG) without any indication of the adoption of domesticates. There was no transition from foraging to farming in the 3rd millennium cal BCE in the NE Baltic. Instead, we see a complex system of parallel worlds with local HFGs continuing forager lifeways, and incoming farmers practising mixed economies, with the continuation of these subsistence strategies for at least a millennium after the first encounter with domesticated animals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number230880
Number of pages15
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2023

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