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Regional asynchronicity in dairy production and processing in early farming communities of the northern Mediterranean

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  • 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
  • Richard P. Evershed


Publication details

JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
DateAccepted/In press - 6 Oct 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 14 Nov 2016
DatePublished (current) - 29 Nov 2016
Issue number48
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)13594-13599
Early online date14/11/16
Original languageEnglish


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.

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© 2016 National Academy of Sciences. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

    Research areas

  • Archaeology, Archaeozoology, Lipid residue analyses, Milk, Neolithic, History, Ancient, Humans, Milk/chemistry, Animals, Domestic, Dairying/history, Animals, Cattle, Lipids/analysis, Agriculture, Mediterranean Region, Ruminants, Animal Husbandry/history

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