The impact of farming on prehistoric culinary practices throughout Northern Europe

Alexandre Jules Andre Lucquin, Harry Kenneth Robson, Ester Oras, Jasmine Lundy, Giulia Moretti, Lara Gonzalez Carretero, Joannes Dekker, Özge Demirci, Ekaterina Dolbunova, T. Rowan McLaughlin, Henny Piezonka, Helen M. Talbot, Kamil Adamczak, Agnieszka Czekaj-Zastawny, Daniel Groß, Witold Gumiński, Sönke Hartz, Jacek Kabaciński, Satu Koivisto, Trond Eilev LingeAnn-Katrin Meyer, Teemu Mökkönen , Bente Philippsen, Gytis Piličiauskas, Vanda Visocka, Aivar Kriiska, Daan C.M. Raemaekers, John Meadows, Carl Heron, Oliver Edward Craig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To investigate changes in culinary practices associated with the arrival of farming, we analysed the organic residues of over 1,000 pottery vessels from hunter-gatherer-fisher and early agricultural sites across Northern Europe from the Lower Rhine Basin to the Northeastern Baltic. Here, pottery was widely used by hunter-gatherer-fishers prior to the introduction of domesticated animals and plants. Overall, there was surprising continuity in the way that hunter-gatherer-fishers and farmers used pottery. Both aquatic products and wild plants remained prevalent, a pattern repeated consistently across the study area. We argue that the rapid adaptation of farming communities to exploit coastal and lagoonal resources facilitated their northerly expansion, and in some cases, hunting, gathering, and fishing became the most dominant subsistence strategy. Nevertheless, dairy products frequently appear in pottery associated with the earliest farming groups often mixed with wild plants and fish. Interestingly, we also find compelling evidence of dairy products in hunter-gatherer-fisher Ertebølle pottery, which predates the arrival of domesticated animals. We propose that Ertebølle hunter-gatherer-fishers frequently acquired dairy products through exchange with adjacent farming communities prior to the transition. The continuity observed in pottery use across the transition to farming contrasts with the analysis of human remains which shows substantial demographic change through ancient DNA and, in some cases, a reduction in marine consumption through stable isotope analysis. We postulate that farmers acquired the knowledge and skills they needed to succeed from local hunter-gatherer-fishers but without substantial admixture.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2310138120
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2023

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